Bulgarian farmer Ivan Haralampiev was initially happy when his cow Penka was returned after two weeks out of the EU in the fields of Serbia. But then inspectors said she had to be put down because of missing paperwork.
The case of the straying cow, Penka from the Bulgarian village of Kopilovtsi, is to be decided on Monday after her situation caused a social media storm, a petition with 27,000 signatures including that of ex-Beatles singer Paul McCartney and an intervention from an English Member of the European Parliament (MEP).
Penka is a red cow who, two weeks ago, went for a wander that took her out of the European Union, a few kilometers into the neighboring, non-EU state of Serbia. Her border crossing was captured on camera, but Bulgarian police were unable to stop her.
A Serbian farmer found her two weeks later near the town of Bosilegrad, and she was identified by her EU-standard ear tag. Police contacted Penka's owner, Ivan Haralampiev, and told him to come and get her.
But on their way home, Haralampiev and Penka were held up at the border as they lacked the necessary EU documentation to authorize the cow's return.
Bulgarian officials intervened to say the animal must be put down because of EU regulations, despite the clean bill of health she had received from vets in Serbia.
The Bulgarian Food Safety Agency then ruled that laboratory tests could be carried out to ensure Penka was free from disease and able to return to her barn.
"So far laboratory analyses of the cow, which spent 15 days in Serbia and crossed the border back [into Bulgaria] are favorable," the agency reported in a statement on Saturday. "The final results will be out on Monday and the animal remains under quarantine."
Petition for clemency
After Penka's fate became a media issue at the EU Commission's daily briefing on Friday a petition was launched to save her:
"We, the signatories of this petition, urge the EU to make an exception on compassionate grounds for Penka and not execute her. We believe that Penka's case reflects a lack of compassion on the part of EU officialdom for everyday people, such as Penka's owner, who is absolutely distraught."
By Monday morning, the petition had gathered 30,751 signatures.
'An enormous violation' of EU law
Bulgarian animal rights organization Four Paws has also taken up the cow's case.
British Conservative MEP John Flack wrote to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and to the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, to defend the life of the roving Bulgarian ruminant.
However, Dr Alexandra Miteva of Bulgaria's Animal Healthcare directorate called Penka's wanderings "an enormous violation of European, and accordingly our, legislation."
The laboratory results are anticipated by many more than the concerned farmers of Bulgaria.