A licensed veterinarian and her husband were arrested for a second time on felony animal cruelty charges.
66-year-old Dr. Gail Nichols and her husband, 74-year-old Paul Smith, of Lakeland, were arrested as a result of the subsequent medical discovery of an untreated horse that suffered under their care prior to their August 22 arrest.
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Smith was arrested Wednesday, November 1, and Nichols was arrested Thursday, November 2.
On Thursday, August 17, Polk County Sheriff's Office Agricultural Crimes detectives began an investigation of animal neglect and animal cruelty that revealed Nichols and her husband confined animals belonging to them and failed to supply the animals with necessary medical and basic care, causing the animals to suffer as a result.
On Tuesday, August 22, Polk County Sheriff's Office Agricultural Crimes detectives arrested Nichols and Smith.
Multiple animals were seized from the two owners. While in the care of the Polk County Animal Control, a medical evaluation and routine maintenance of dental care by a veterinarian revealed a severe infection and an overgrown tooth in one of the horses. The overgrown bottom tooth pushed the top tooth into the horse's nasal cavity causing a large gap/cavity (fistula).
Once the top tooth was removed, a second infection and cavity was found next to the removed tooth that was packed with feed and infection that with flushing poured out through the horse's nose.
Investigation and medical reports by health and dental care specialists determined the animal suffered significantly with pain due to this untreated medical issue and infection that was chronic and long-term that occurred during the time Nichols and Smith were supposed to have been caring for the animal.
The extent of the damage revealed the animal was neglected and denied basic care by the owners, deputies say. According to animal healthcare professionals, the medical issue could have been found and treated with routine care.
In late October, detectives met with the State Attorney's Office and presented the facts regarding the animal cruelty for review.
An arrest warrant was issued by the S.A.O. on Wednesday, and Smith was arrested and transported to Polk County Jail without incident. On Thursday, Nichols was booked into Polk County Jail. Both Smith and Nichols have since bonded out.
With the exception of two family dogs that have been released back to Nichols and Smith, the rest of the animals have been awarded to PCSO per court order. Permanent custody of the animals will be determined by the civil court. Due to regular veterinary care at PCSO Animal Control, health conditions of these animals are continuing to improve.
Mary Stringini is a digital reporter for ABC Action News. Follow her on Twitter @MaryWFTS.