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.
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"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."