Belgian martial arts star Jean-Claude Van Damme showed his softer side when he jumped into the fray between Norway and Bulgaria to save a 3-month-old Chihuahua from euthanasia, according to a report.
After being sold to new owners in Norway, Raya was not allowed to be registered because she had entered the country on a fake Bulgarian passport, Agence France-Presse reported.
Bulgaria refused to allow Raya back, citing European Union rules about transporting animals – meaning the poor pup faced the prospect of being put down.
But the so-called “Muscles from Brussels” did some flexing on social media, where he posted selfies hugging his own Chihuahua, according to AFP.
“I beg, please, for my birthday, the food safety authority, change your decision,” Van Damme wrote as he launched a petition to save the dog.
“They made a mistake, the people who didn’t do the paper correctly … But they cannot kill that little Chihuahua,” he added.
The Bulgarian food safety authority got the message and decided to allow Raya to return, adding that she will receive a medical checkup and be put up for adoption.
Yavor Gechev from the Four Paws animal rights group told AFP that Bulgaria should be congratulated for relenting, but called for tighter controls on illegal breeders and animal traffickers.
“The export of pets from Eastern to Western and Northern Europe is a lucrative business,” he told the outlet.
Raya’s plight resembled the story of Penka the cow, who also faced a death sentence after wandering over Bulgaria’s border with Serbia in 2018.
Penka was saved thanks to an international campaign that included former Beatle Paul McCartney.
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