Action movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme has come to the rescue of a three-month-old chihuahua named Raya. He saved her from euthanasia on Monday after a legal battle between Norway and Bulgaria.
Raya was sold to new owners in Norway in September. Officials in Norway would not register her because she had traveled on a fake Bulgarian passport.
Norway tried to repatriate the animal, but Bulgaria refused to take her back because of European Union rules about the transport of live animals, leaving the dog facing euthanasia.
Van Damme launched a campaign on social media to save Raya, posting selfies of him hugging his chihuahua, which eventually persuaded the Bulgarian Food Safety Authority to accept the dog back.
“I beg, please, for my birthday, the Food Safety Authority, change your decision,” Van Damme said over the weekend, launching a petition to save the dog. “They made a mistake, the people who didn’t do the papers correctly. But they cannot kill that little chihuahua.”
The food safety authority says Raya will have medical checks when she returns to Bulgaria and will be put up for adoption.
Yavor Gechev from the animal rights organization Four Paws told AFP on Monday that Bulgaria should be congratulated for showing flexibility but called for stricter control on illegal breeders and animal traffickers.
“The export of pets from eastern to western and northern Europe is a lucrative business,” he said. The dog’s fake passport meant she would have been put down on October 20 under Norway’s legislation, said Gechev.