Police in Palm Beach, Florida, USA, have arrested and charged a vet with horse theft after recovering three stolen competition horses in her care.

Cathy Crighton, 44, of Palos Park, was arrested on Saturday (1 March) in Florida, near Palm Beach, and charged with grand theft and burglary, after she was caught using black paint to cover the white markings of a horse.

The owner of the barn that Ms Crighton was renting became suspicious after he caught her spraying the white socks of a horse with a black substance. When questioned, she claimed it was a necessary, medical treatment. Noting the Oldenburg brand on the gelding’s neck, he copied it before showing it to the police.

The dark bay gelding turned out to be San Diego, a 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding, who was reported missing from his field in Wellington on 22 January.

San Diego was found by detectives in a stable at Palm Beach Point, along with two other horses that were reported stolen last autumn – Scooby Doo, a Dutch Warmblood, and Keller, a Swedish Warmblood.

In a bizarre twist it appears that Cathy Crighton was the vet responsible for the horses where Scooby Doo was kept, while the day after San Diego disappeared, she dropped by and offered her condolences to the animal’s co-owner on his disappearance.

The horses were all reported to be in good condition, although the paint used had caused blistering to the delicate area around San Diego’s nose. Scooby Doo was also found to have paint on his legs and feet.

Sgt John Howley from Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office animal cruelty unit told PalmBeachPost.com: “What makes it shameful is that she would paint the horses with toxic paint. It is disturbing to think she would mistreat an animal like that, especially as she is a veterinarian.”

Mr Esposito who co-owns and trains San Diego said: “He’s back in the barn, he has some blistering and some swelling but the veterinarians are working on him. He’s not been properly cared for.”