A review is currently underway by the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) after an officer fired 24 shots to kill a cow that was running through city streets on Sunday.
Const. Paul Walker said a review of this nature is standard after police use a firearm or other means of force in the line of duty.
In this case, the review will look into all aspects of the incident, including why so many shots were fired and the circumstances that preceded it. It is not known how many of the shots actually hit the cow.
Walker said police will also look into the various resources – such as veterinarians and farmers – who are available in the community to assist in similar incidents in the future.
He said although the APD has been heavily criticized – on social media and via emails and phone calls – about the shooting, they are confirming that the officer fired two dozen shots from his patrol rifle.
“We want to be upfront and honest about what’s going on. We always have been, and this is no different,” Walker said.
The incident began at about 10:15 a.m. Sunday, when police began receiving calls that a cow was loose in the area of Whatcom and South Parallel roads.
Police who were dispatched to the area followed the cow in their vehicles and tried to corral it, but the animal ran onto Highway 1 and headed west in the eastbound lanes.
It then crossed the freeway and made its way onto DeLair Road, around to the front of the McDonald’s restaurant, and then eventually into the parking lots of Walmart and Home Depot.
Walker said along the way, the cow travelled through yards and businesses, making it difficult for police to contain it, despite numerous attempts in their vehicles and on foot.
He said police tried to contact people who might be able to help – such as cattle companies – but they had difficulty reaching anybody because it was a Sunday and businesses were closed.
The animal then ran north along Sumas Way and, as it headed just past South Fraser Way, the decision was made by a supervisor that the animal should be shot.
Walker said this area, which is bordered by a forested section, was chosen because it was away from businesses and residences. The road was closed off before any shots were fired, he said.
Walker said the cow was put down because of the risk of a driver or pedestrian being injured or killed if there were a collision as it wandered back into busy areas.
Walker said police do not carry tranquilizer guns, and conservation officers, who do use such equipment, deal with wild animals, not farm creatures.
The SPCA and animal control officers deal only with small animals, such as cats and dogs.
He said with the animal barreling down busy roads and through congested parking lots, officers had to act quickly and do what they felt was best for public safety.
The area was blocked off for about 20 minutes while the cow was moved off the road. A local farmer then transported the animal away.
On Monday, police were still trying to determine who owned the cow.
Walker said the APD typically handles about a dozen calls a year related to cows, horses and other farm animals that have escaped from their property.
In most cases, these incidents occur in rural areas, and there are large spaces available for police or local residents to contain the animal without risk to it or the public.
Walker said Sunday’s incident was a unique circumstance, with the cow making its way into a congested residential and business area.
The last time the APD shot an animal was in 2012, when an officer fired multiple shots to kill a black bear in the Sandy Hill area. The bear had been rummaging through backyards and was showing no fear of people.
Afterwards, the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said the APD’s actions were appropriate.