Penka the Bulgarian cow escapes death sentence after international outcry

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria agreed on Monday to spare the life of Penka the cow after plans to kill her for crossing European Union borders without paperwork triggered an international outcry.

Penka wandered away from her herd near the Bulgarian village of Mazarachevo last month and walked out of the bloc into neighboring Serbia.

When she was returned two weeks later, authorities said she would have to be put down as she had violated guidelines under which animals entering the European Union have to have papers verifying their health.

Penka's plight prompted protests on social media, particularly in Britain where eurosceptic campaigners and publications held her up as a victim of Brussels bureaucracy.

Animal rights campaigners, including former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, signed petitions asking Bulgaria to save the five-year-old animal.

The Bulgarian Food Safety Agency agreed to review the case and said on Monday that lab tests had given her a clean bill of health.

"It is expected the animal will be allowed back to her former home in the village of Mazarachevo by the end of the week," the agency said in a statement.

"I read the moos today oh boy! HUGE HUGE HUGE PENKA NEWS. SHE WILL LIVE!!!!!!!!!," tweeted James Crisp, a journalist with Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, mangling one of the Beatles' best known songs as he celebrated the announcement.

Animal rights group Four Paws said there were many more Penkas out there as dozens of stray animals crossed in and out of the European Union on a daily basis.

"It will be really cruel to kill all those animals. I do hope that if there is a gap in European legislation, Penka's case will help to solve this issue," said group spokesman Yavor Gechev.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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