Over the course of three days in December 2016, the high temperature was 8 degrees in New Prague. This was where Close to Home Canine Rescue's Libby Osterbauer warehoused 66 dogs, 25 of which were adults and 41 puppies, some as young as six weeks.
Minneapolis Police had originally been dispatched to the four-acre hobby farm, which consisted of a clapboard house, detached garage, and barn, to serve a search warrant.
The 24-year-old Osterbauer was a suspect in two Minneapolis burglaries. The victim, Shelly Byzewski, also believed Osterbauer had "tortured, drugged, and killed" her miniature pinscher. According to Byzewski, Osterbauer had broken into her home after she rejected her romantic overtures.
Inside the gated kitchen of the New Prague house, Sgt. Joel Sandberg found seven dogs. The lone water dish was empty. There was no food. Urine and feces were everywhere.
Further into the residence, Sandberg came upon a four-year-old cocker spaniel and a pug inside a plastic storage bin used as a makeshift kennel. The spaniel weighed a mere 14 pounds.
The garage wasn't insulated or heated. A thin layer of hay covered the floor. Eighteen dogs were penned in a corner. They too were without water.
Sandberg would locate another 39 dogs in the barn. The temperature inside hovered around zero. Excrement caked the floor. The dogs had no water. Many were sickly thin.
Osterbauer was charged with two felony burglary counts. Investigators believe that during a burglary last summer, she stole Byzewski's dog Ducky. Authorities say they have a witness who watched Osterbauer place Ducky in a pillow case and stomp him until he drowned at a wildlife preserve.
Osterbauer has also been charged with seven counts of mistreatment of animals in connection to the New Prague farm search.
Minneapolis Animal Control officials seized the dogs. One would die. Three suffered from eye infections or ulcers. The incident report noted some "were dehydrated to the point of needing the administration of fluids."
While Osterbauer surrendered custody of 28 of the 66 dogs, she sued Minneapolis Animal Control in an attempt to get the animals back. A district court judge denied that motion.
Judge Francis Magill Jr. handed Osterbauer another courtroom defeat Monday. After she lost an appeal contesting the seizure of her animals, Osterbauer was ordered to pay almost $82,000 to the city to cover the costs it incurred in caring for the dogs.
But Osterbauer fought the amount, arguing she wasn't responsible to pay "for the normal wages" of animal control staff because they were already being paid to do their job. Instead, she contended she was only "liable for overtime wages."
Magill said no. His ruling means Osterbauer will forfeit the $10,000 bond she'd posted at the time of her arrest. She owes the city a balance of roughly $72,000. The dogs remain at the Animal Control facility.
Based on the sheer scope of what authorities found at her New Prague rental, she's suspected of being a dog flipper, a person who buys, adopts, or even steals dogs, then turns around and sells them for a profit.
She'll be back in court later this week in connection with the Byzewski case.
A young woman who answered Osterbauer's cell said she wasn't available. Subsequent messages went unreturned.
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