Jean-Claude Van Damme has stepped in to save a 3-month-old chihuahua from being euthanized over a passport problem.
The chihuahua, named Raya, had been sold by Bulgaria-based breeders to its new owners in Norway.
However, Norwegian authorities discovered upon the dog’s arrival into the country that it had done so on a fake Bulgarian passport.
The dog was then sent back to Bulgaria. But because Norway is not in the European Union, Bulgarian authorities said they could not take the dog back, due to rules over the transport of live animals.
This meant that Raya would be facing euthanasia — but not on Van Damme’s watch.
The Bloodsport actor, who is himself a chihuahua owner, took to social media to plead with the Bulgarian authorities to reconsider their position. He also directed fans to a Change.org petition.
“I beg, please, for my birthday, the food safety authority, change your decision,” Van Damme wrote on his Instagram page. The actor turned 60 on Oct. 18.
“They made a mistake, the people who didn’t do the paper correctly … But they cannot kill that little chihuahua.”
Thanks in part to Van Damme’s spotlight on the incident, the Bulgarian authorities have decided that the dog will not be euthanized, but rather given medical checks on her return to Bulgaria before being put up for adoption.
Van Damme has long been an advocate for adopting animals, donating $30,000 in 2016 to Animals Australia, a charity based in Sydney, after appearing in an advertising campaign to encourage people to adopt greyhounds.