Jean-Claude Van Damme can add puppy savior to his extensive action hero resume.
The 60-year-old Belgian actor recently intervened in an international situation involving a puppy Chihuahua named Raya.
His actions saved her from being euthanized after Norwegian officials said she entered the country from Bulgaria under a fake pet passport.
The New York Times reports that the ordeal started in September when the puppy was purchased by a Norwegian man named Alexey Iversen.
She was brought to Oslo and taken to a veterinarian, who became suspicious because of a date on her rabies vaccination. The date indicated the pup was vaccinated at 2 months, but dogs must be at least 3 months old to get vaccinated.
After the vet reported the situation, Raya was taken away by Norwegian Food Safety Authority and put under quarantine.
When Bulgaria’s government refused to take the puppy back, the decision was made that the dog would be euthanized.
"I have lost almost all hope to safe [sic] the life of this innocent chihuahua puppy when I received the information that the Bulgarian Food Safety Authority has denied the puppy return to Bulgaria," Iversen wrote in an online petition he started.
Once he convinced authorities to free Raya, he found a lawyer who delayed the euthanasia date to October.
Iversen acknowledged that there were issues with the paperwork, but didn’t think the dog should suffer as a result.
"I think that such treatment towards a puppy is very inhumane, and goes against all my morals and values. I understand that there were several issues with the documents, and I also understand that this is also my fault, as I have not checked the dog's documents properly. However, the dog is innocent, and I think the punishment does not correspond to the crime,” he added.
Van Damme got wind of the story and urged his 27 million fans to sign the petition and spread the word. He even took to Facebook Live to ask fans for support.
“We cannot kill that little Chihuahua. It’s bad luck for the future, it’s bad luck for Covid, it’s bad luck for all that stuff,” the "The Expendables 2" star said while hugging his own Chihuahua.
"I beg, please, for my birthday, to the food safety authority, to change your decision," the self-proclaimed dog lover said, adding, "They made a mistake, the people who didn’t do the paper correctly … If they have to pay a [fine], I'll pay for it. No problem.”
Van Damme’s plea seemed to do the trick because soon after, the Bulgarian Food Safety Authority said it would allow Raya to return to the country and be put up for adoption.
The outlet notes that it’s unclear if Raya and Iversen will be reunited.
Yavor Gechev, the representative for the Bulgarian office of FOUR PAWS, told the outlet that this kind of situation is not uncommon and exposes a ring of East European animal trafficking.
"It seems that this, indeed, is a very lucrative business," he said.