Action movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme has come to the rescue of a three-month-old chihuahua. Saving her from euthanasia on Monday (19 October) after a legal tussle between Norway and Bulgaria.

The dog’s name is Raya. They sold her to new owners in Norway in September. But officials there 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. This was because of European Union rules about the transport of live animals. Thus, the dog faces euthanasia — until the Belgian film legend gets involved.

Van Damme launched a vigorous campaign on social media. He posted selfies of him hugging his chihuahua, which eventually persuaded the Bulgarian Food Safety Authority to accept the dog back.

They cannot kill that little chihuahua.

“I beg, please, for my birthday, the Food Safety Authority, change your decision,” Jean-Claude Van Damme wrote over the weekend, launching 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.”

The food safety authority says Raya will have medical checks. They turned her to Bulgaria and put them up for adoption.

Raya’s story was top news on all Bulgarian television channels on Monday. And the decision made headlines. Reportedly dozens of citizens asked to adopt the puppy.

The veterinarian who issued the passport appeared on TV saying that he had warned the puppy’s owners that they could not use it outside Bulgaria. He said the owners were of Roma origin.

They can buy pets with a pedigree in Bulgaria at prices often ten times lower than in Western Europe.

Yavor Gechev from the Four Paws animal rights organization told AFP on Monday that Bulgaria should be congratulated for showing flexibility. But they call 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 20 October under Norway’s legislation, said Gechev.

The misadventures of Raya resemble the story of Penka the cow, who also faced a death sentence after wandering over Bulgaria’s border with Serbia in May 2018.

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