A YouTube video of Gatineau police opening fire on an escaped cow has raised questions about their treatment of the animals.

Gatineau police said two cows were headed for the slaughterhouse when they broke free from a truck Thursday, leaving them no choice but to shoot them dead.

"The cops at one point have to decide if it's threatening for the population, is it too dangerous?" said Const. Pierre Lanthier of the Gatineau police. "They decided at one point they had no choice but to shoot the animal."

In the video, police can be seen firing six shots at one cow that slowed it down, then four more causing it to limp away off-screen.

Gatineau police said they had the owner's permission to shoot the animals.

"What I saw yesterday was the most shocking thing I've ever seen," said Lucille Cloutier, who was visiting from North Bay, Ont. when the shooting happened.

"Coming from a region where our cops have tranquilizers, they didn't. This would have been the most appropriate thing for them to do."

One animal activist said police should have a better plan for dealing with escaped animals.

"One way or another there has to be responsibility for these situations," said Esther Klein, director of the Animal Defence League of Canada. "If it's going to be the police then the police need the training and tranquilizers and everything that is required to deal with this situation."

A similar situation happened last year in Ottawa involving moose that roamed too close to neighbourhoods.

"The control of animals is not ours, we are still in discussions with our partners to see who should have that, maybe the Humane Society," said Const. Marc Soucy of the Ottawa police. "It's all being looked at to see if we can have a plan."

Gatineau police say they are investigating the incident, but have no plans to arm their officers with tranquilizers at this time.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Ellen Mauro

WARNING: Video contains violence and coarse language