CORRECTION: This story has been modified to correct the bond paid by Dayna Bell.

A Northfield kennel operator was charged Tuesday with 16 counts of felony animal cruelty in connection with the deaths of numerous puppies and dogs in her care.

Dayna Kristine Bell, 61, is the owner and operator of Bells Kennels in Sciota Township, in Dakota County northeast of the city.

On Sept. 27, 2011, the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office received a report of cruelty and maltreatment of animals by Bell. A witness reported that Bell had drowned puppies and other dogs and told police she had also observed Bell tie a rope which was attached to a cinderblock around the neck of a small dog and throw the dog and block into a pool.

This witness also said she saw Bell take a small dog which had bitten her on the arm outside and return claiming that she had broken the dog’s neck.

Another witness told police that Bell had put a puppy in a bucket of water and then placed another bucket on top of that to hold the puppy down.

A third witness saw this dead puppy in the bucket and was told by Bell that the puppy, which had been born a week earlier, was not doing well and she did not want to see it suffer.

When executing a search warrant on September 29, 2011 at the Bells Kennel property, investigators found 10 small breed adult dogs in individual plastic bags in a freezer chest. Officers believed that the dogs had been wet when placed in the freezer based upon the appearance of their fur. Other items of evidence were also recovered, including a bucket and a cinderblock with a rope tied to it.

“The abuse of animals in the manner alleged in this criminal complaint is unconscionable,” said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom, whose office is prosecuting the case.

Bell made her first court appearance Tuesday in Dakota County’s Hastings courthouse. She was released on $50,000 bond without conditions.

If convicted on all counts, Bell could be sentenced to up to 32 years and/or fined up to $80,000. Sentences depend on a defendant’s prior record and a sentencing report prepared for the courts. Bell has no prior criminal history.

Her next court appearance is set for July 23.

Reach Suzanne Rook at 645-1113. Follow her on Twitter @rooksuzy.

-Reach Suzanne Rook at 645-1113. Follow her on Twitter @rooksuzy.