Police said a St. Paul man who killed 10 pit bull puppies during an argument with his girlfriend as several people watched, then threw the bodies in a trash bin, could be charged with cruelty to animals.

Officers found the dead puppies, with broken necks, in a commercial trash bin. The remains were removed by the city's animal control officers.

Authorities were looking for the suspect, who owned the dogs.

Witnesses saw the man kill the puppies at around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in front of his girlfriend, then threatened to do the same to her. Police were also investigating the alleged threats.

Witnesses said the argument started inside the apartment building when the girlfriend refused to give the man and his dogs a ride home.

"He was mad at his girlfriend and took it out on the puppies," said Tiffany White, who witnessed the attack. "I just wish somebody would catch him because what he did was wrong."

Another witness, Monica Smith, said Wednesday that the man turned his anger on his girlfriend after killing the pups, telling her that if she didn't give him a ride, "I'll do to you what I done to the dogs."

"There's no reason for this," said Tom Walsh, St. Paul police spokesman. "It's just so inhumane. There are so many shelters that would have taken them."

Janelle Dixon, executive director of the Humane Society for Companion Animals in Woodbury, said it's not unusual for animals to be caught in abusive domestic situations.

"There are instances where women in abusive situations will stay because they are afraid of what will happen to their pet," Dixon said.

The Minnesota Legislature passed a bill in 2001 that made serious cases of animal cruelty a felony.

"This is precisely the kind of case we were talking about," said Sen. Don Betzold, DFL-Fridley, Senate sponsor of the bill. "We had some of the weakest animal cruelty laws in the country. If you went out and deliberately killed your neighbor's pet, it was a misdemeanor."