Police are looking into claims that an officer took five shots to kill a distressed sheep in an allegedly botched mercy killing.

The SPCA received a call from a member of the public about a ram with a suspected broken leg near Hanmer Springs, North Canterbury on December 30.

Hurunui District Council was also called before local police went to the scene.

A man who claims to have witnessed the scene told the Herald that the officer shot the animal five times with his rifle before it died.


"It was not a merciful killing but more like target practice," the man said.

He lodged a welfare complaint with the SPCA, which has since contacted police.

A spokeswoman for the SPCA said it was passing on information to police and "offering our assistance if required".

Senior Sergeant Paul Reeves said the police had not received a complaint directly, but confirmed discussions with the SPCA "in regards to the concerns".

"We will be making inquiries to establish the circumstances of the incident."