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28 miniature horses seized from veterinarian practitioner charged with animal cruelty

Animal cruelty couple
Dogs in cages
miniature horse cruelty
Posted at 3:09 PM, Aug 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-23 15:09:00-04

POLK CO., FL (WWSB) – Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies seized 28 miniature horses, two fulled-sized horses, and eight dogs from a couple in Lakeland.

On Aug. 22, Dr. Gail Anne Nichols, 66, and Paul Craig Smith, 74, of 3211 West Bella Vista Street, were charged with three felony counts of animal cruelty, one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty, and five county of confinement of animals without sufficient food.   

Deputies received a tip about animals not being properly cared for at the home so they began investigating.

Dr. Nichols told deputies that she practices veterinary medicine. The animals at the home were own by her, and not affiliated with her work.

"The fact that a practicing, licensed veterinarian caused so much suffering to her own animals is extremely concerning. We hope from this point forward she is not allowed to own, or treat, any more animals." - Grady Judd, Sheriff

The animals are being housed at Polk County Sheriff’s Office facilities, pending custody hearings. The suspects are petitioning the court to retain ownership of the animals.