HASTINGS, Minn. (WCCO) — Investigators say it is one of the worst cases of animal cruelty they have ever come across. Sixty-one-year-old Dayna Bell of Northfield and owner of Bells Kennels are accused of killing 16 dogs and puppies.

Charges allege she drowned the dogs and, in one case, broke a dog’s neck.

One witness says she saw Bell throw a dog tied to a cinderblock into a pool, where it drowned.

“It’s just a sad deal all the way around,” said Keith Streff, senior investigator for the Animal Humane Society.

Streff has been investigating animal cruelty cases for 25 years and during that time he says he doesn’t remember a case quite like this one.

“To have a rope tied around your head and to be drowned in a swimming pool is kind of repulsive to me. So, under the circumstances there I think the charges are consistent with her behavior,” said Streff.

Streff says someone who does Bell’s job would have to euthanize animals from time to time. But prosecutors are charging her because of how they say she killed them. Drowning them would have caused them to suffer for several minutes.

“That is not an appropriate way to take the life of an animal, regardless of its condition,” said Dakota County Attorney James Backstron.

Investigators also say they found 10 small dogs wrapped in plastic in a freezer chest and they appeared wet when they were frozen. But Bell’s attorney says the charges were filed by former employees who were fired and that Bell, who has been in the business for nearly 40 years, is innocent.

“When the smoke clears, we believe she will be vindicated of these charges,” said Bell’s attorney, Bob Miller.

To avoid cases like this in the future, Streff says he wants to see legislation passed that would require dog breeders to register with the state and be inspected regularly. Since animal cruelty became a felony in 2001, he’s seen more awareness on the issu,e but the number of cases hasn’t dropped.

“We need something that identifies these breeders, who they are. Register who they are. Get them inspected. Get them licensed. We need to do it to prevent an incident like this rather than react to it,” said Streff.

Streff says that bill is at the Capitol right now and is in committee.

Dog breeders in Minnesota can currently register with the USDA, but they don’t have to.

Streff wants that to be more universal where all dog breeders have to register and face inspection.

Bell’s next court appearance is July 23, 2012 and she’s expected to plead not guilty.

She posted bail Tuesday, opting for $50,000 bail, so she can have contact with animals right now. Her other option was to post $10,000 bail with no animal contact.

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