Woman charged with animal torture after 'skeletal' dog rescued by lieutenant

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Photo Courtesy: Hennepin County Jail

The previous owner of a dog rescued from poor living conditions by a Hennepin County Sheriff's lieutenant is now being charged with two counts of animal torture.

Alyssa Erin Lilja, 23, of Brooklyn Park faces up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine for each count.

According to the criminal complaint, in early February, Hennepin County Sheriff's deputies went to a home in Brooklyn Park in an attempt to arrest two people on felony warrants. Lilja, who was not one of the people the deputies was looking for, allowed the officers to search the home.

The deputies noticed the home was messy and had no heat or running water. During their search, they opened the room containing the two labrador retriever mixes. A male dog, skeletal in appearance, walked out. Lilja carried a female dog, which was "thin and motionless," out of the room. Authorities later confirmed the female dog was actually deceased. Lilja claimed the dog died that day.

The officers were "overwhelmed by the odor of dog feces and urine" and the smell of a decaying animal. There were no food or water dishes in the room. There also did not appear to be any dog food throughout the entire home.

Lilja told the deputies the dogs were hers and she claimed she had just run out of dog food. However, she later admitted to the officers that she hadn't fed the dogs in about three or four days. She told them she had noticed the dogs had looked emaciated for the past three weeks, but she hadn't taken them to a veterinarian.

The deputies seized the dogs. A necropsy on the female dog completed by the University of Minnesota showed the dog died of emaciation. The dog also had depletion of body fat stores from its bone marrow. This loss comes from extreme malnutrition and starvation. It appeared the dog was unable to walk.

The male dog, which was emaciated, received care from the Animal Humane Society. Lt. Shane Magnuson, who had responded to the home, made an immediate connection with the dog. About a month after the rescue, Lt. Magnuson adopted the dog - now named Reggie - and brought him home with his family. Reggie is now on a special diet to gain weight.

Lilja is in custody at the Hennepin County Jail. The Brooklyn Park home has been condemned.