A Northfield dog breeder has been charged with 16 counts of felony animal cruelty in connection with the deaths of more than a dozen puppies and dogs in her care in September 2011.

Dayna Kristine Bell, 61, owner and operator of Bell Kennels and Farm, was charged Tuesday by the Dakota County attorney's office. Her kennel farm is in Sciota Township, north of Northfield.

Sheriff's deputies raided the kennel on Sept. 29 after three employees notified investigators two days earlier about dog maltreatment. The employees reported that several dogs were drowned or otherwise killed for misbehaving.

The complaint said one employee saw Bell put two newborn puppies with injured legs in a blue bucket of water, then put another weighted bucket on top of them so they drowned. A day later, on Sept. 26, the employee said she saw Bell standing by her swimming pool with a small, black-and-white Teddy Bear breed dog. Bell tied one end of a rope to the dog's neck and the other end to a cinder block, then threw the dog and block into her pool, the complaint alleges.

The next day, after a small Papillon dog bit Bell on the arm, she took the dog to the back yard and returned to say the dog "would never bother any of us again. I broke its damn neck."

Deputies noticed Bell's bite mark during the raid two days later. Bell told them that after being bitten, she gave the dog to a Wisconsin friend whose last name she didn't provide. Police also found a blue bucket and a cinder block with a rope tied to it. In a chest freezer they found the bodies of 10 small dogs in plastic bags. Their fur appeared to have been wet when frozen.

Bell denied knowing anything about the dogs in the freezer and told deputies she didn't know how they got there, although she admitted to drowning some puppies, the complaint said.

"It is a very disturbing case," Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said. "Dogs and other pets depend on us for safety and well-being, and when that trust is breached, as we are alleging it was here, it's a very serious matter."

Backstrom said if Bell, who has no prior criminal record, is convicted, a judge will decide the severity of her sentence. It could range from little to no jail time up to two years in prison and fines.

Backstrom said the kennel has a federal permit to sell dogs wholesale, which means the kennel receives annual inspections.

Bell posted $10,000 bail on Tuesday and agreed to conditions set by the judge that included no contact with or possession of animals. The kennel remains open.

Jim Adams • 952-746-3283