Veterinarian Charged With Animal Cruelty! Disturbing Video

Lakeland, Fla. (970 WFLA)- A Polk County veterinarian and her husband are facing animal cruelty charges after deputies find 28 miniature horses, 2 full sized horses and eight dogs that were neglected at her home in Lakeland. 

All the animals belong to 66 year old Dr. Gail Nichols and her husband 74 year old Paul Smith.  Deputies acting on a tip searched the couples  property in the 3000 block of West Bella Vista Street found five of the eight dogs were living in cages without water.  

Inside the home, which smelled of ammonia, and had clutter piled to the ceiling , it was also infested with rats. Two Macaw  type parrots  were found living in filthy cages and were missing feathers on their chests.

A search of the front pasture revealed 18 miniature horses were confined to a dirt pasture, with access to hay.   2 full sized horses were housed in a side dirt pasture with no access to grass or hay. 

10 additional miniature horses were found in a back dirt pasture with no hay or grass.   All had access to water.  Three of the horses were found to have hooves that were severely overgrown to the point they were spiraled upwards causing the horses lameness.  One of the three horses had one overgrown hoof facing backward and one overgrown hoof facing forward.   Another was found to be only able to amble on three legs after suffering an untreated injury.   The remaining horse appeared emaciated, malnourished and in poor health. 

The animals were seized and removed to PCSO Animal Control and evaluated by PCSO Veterinarian, Dr. Abbe Degroat.   Dr. Degroat determined three of the miniature horses would require euthanasia based upon their X-rays of their hooves and prognosis.   A second veterinarian, Dr. Katie Hennessy of Polk Equine, also evaluated the three miniature horses and she too recommended euthanasia based upon her findings. 

Polk County Sheriff's Agricultural Crimes Detectives charged Dr.Gail Nichols and Paul Smith  with three counts felony animal cruelty, one count misdemeanor animal cruelty, and five counts confinement of animals without sufficient food, water, or shelter, after conducting an investigation and seizing 28 miniature horses, 2 full-sized horses, and 8 dogs from their home that were neglected.

Video and Photo Credit:Polk County Sheriff's Office

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