Belgian martial artist Jean-Claude van Dumme reportedly showed his soft side when he competed between Norway and Bulgaria to save 3-month-old Chihuahua from euthanasia.
Agency France-Press reported that Raya was not allowed to register because he had entered the country on a fake Bulgarian passport after being sold to new owners in Norway.
Bulgaria has refused to allow Raya back, citing European Union rules on animal husbandry – meaning it could pose a poor puppy.
The so-called “muscles from Brussels” made some flex on social media, where he hugged his own Chihuahua and posted selfies, AFP reports.
“For my birthday, I request the Food Safety Authority to change your decision,” Van Dumme wrote when he filed a petition to save the dog.
“They made a mistake, people who didn’t do the paper properly… but they can’t kill that little Chihuahua,” he added.
The Bulgarian Food Safety Authority received the message and decided to allow Raya to return, adding that they would receive a medical examination and would be ready for adoption.
Mr. Gechev of the For Pav Animal Rights Group told AFP that Bulgaria should be commended for its remorse, but called for stricter controls on illegal breeders and animal traffickers.
“Exporting pets from Eastern to Western and Northern Europe is a lucrative business,” he told the outlet.
Raya’s plight was similar to the story of the Penka cow, who was executed in 2018 after roaming the border between Bulgaria and Serbia.
Penga was rescued thanks to an international campaign involved in the previous beat Paul McCartney.