AUBURNDALE, Fla. — A mostly happy ending after a tragic story of animal neglect in Polk County.
In August, 28 mini horses, two full-sized horses, eight dogs and two birds were taken from a veterinarian couple, charged with animal neglect.
Dr. Gail Anne Nichols and Paul Craig Smith were arrested for animal cruelty in August and again in November after one of their mini-horses took a turn for the worst.
But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for most of the animals seized earlier this fall.
Just this week, 27 of the mini and full sized horses were temporarily re-homed with Hope Equine Rescue in Auburndale.
“These are all the little bitties,” Dani Horton, the owner of Hope Equine Rescue.
Dani says they haven’t been named yet, but ‘little bitties’ is fitting for now.
Of the miniature horses brought to her non-profit, she says a good majority of the mares look to be pregnant.
One of the horses, is a dwarf and was likely a result of inbreeding between the horses seized.
The two full-sized horses looked to be in good health besides needing a good bath an a fly mask, according to Dani.
“They are pretty good they’ve got a few little skin issues and things like that but nothing major,” she said.
And looking around, it seems to be a good start for the new family of horses as they joined many other good-looking horses, donkeys and a random hen that roams the farm.
But this will not be their last stop.
“There’s nothing that takes the place of a horse having its own home,” Dani said.
Hope Equine Rescue takes in animals mainly to rehab, love, nourish and ultimately re-home the animals with prospective and vetted owners.
“Some grooming, as you can see we need a lot of grooming done and we are a little dirty and hairy,” Dani laughed as a miniature horse stuck it’s hind end toward her for petting.
Unfortunately not all of the mini horses made it through their stay with Polk County Animal Control.
They were suffering severely, one had no use of one of its legs, they had some bone deterioration and things like that, that make the quality of life not just not good at all,” she said they had to be put down.
As of now, the horses are not immediately ready for adoption.
Many have to be looked over, rehabbed, and one horse may need to see a vet because of teeth issues.
Dani says Hope Equine Rescue can begin taking applications for ownership, but it could be several weeks before they are ready for permanent homes.