Police who shot dead a runaway cow in a primary school car park in Lincolnshire at the end of a vast chase and capture operation have tonight defended their actions after a public outcry.
Lincolnshire Police tasked a team that reportedly included four marksmen and five unarmed officers to deal with the Belgium blue cow after chasing it for more than two hours across Grantham on Monday.
The animal was cornered at Belton Lane Community Primary School and eventually killed by sharpshooters after efforts to move it apparently failed.
Pupils and staff at the school had already been evacuated and the force has since faced criticism for taking such an extreme measure rather than fire a tranquilliser.
A Facebook page has been established in tribute to the cow, which the creator said was "needlessly killed at Belton Lane Primary School by a police marksman because they don't know how to deal with a cow!!!"
Comments on the page ranged from outraged to mocking at the police response after officers were apparently caught on the hoof.
But Lincolnshire Police said the animal became "increasingly distressed and aggressive" and posed a serious risk to the public after escaping from its field and jumping nearby fences.
The decision to shoot the animal dead was taken after consulting with the RSPCA and its owner, the force added.
Following growing national and international interest in the story, Lincolnshire Police have tonight issued a second statement, once again defending its actions.
– Lincolnshire Police
The animal’s presence in a residential area posed a serious risk to safety. A significant amount of resources were committed to containing the animal. The intention was to safely remove the animal from the area without destroying it if at all possible.
After more than two hours of working towards this aim, it became apparent that it was not achievable. Several options, including sedation, were considered. The RSPCA and the owner of the animal were consulted.
As more members of the public turned up to watch the incident, prompted by online commentary on the situation, the animal became increasingly distressed and there were fears that it would jump further fences and re-enter a residential area.
Reports that some shots missed the animal are incorrect. Four shots were fired and all hit their target.
The statement added that the force deals with dozens of similar incidents every year which do not end with the loss of an animal's life, but that preservation of human life takes precedence when an animal poses a serious risk to safety in a built up residential area.