Fans of Hollywood action movies know Jean-Claude Van Damme, the actor and martial arts pro who starred in hard-kicking flicks like Bloodsport and Timecop.
(You might also remember him for his legendary split between two trucks in a Volvo commercial:)
It’s obvious that Van Damme is a legendary tough guy, but just like fellow ’80s action star Arnold Schwarzenegger, it turns out he still has a soft spot for animals.
And recently, he used his fame to help save a puppy from being wrongly euthanized.
According to Yahoo!, a chihuahua named Raya was sold by Bulgarian dog breeders to someone in Norway, but when the dog arrived in the country, authorities realized the sellers used a fake Bulgarian passport.
Raya was then sent back to Bulgaria, but since Norway is not in the EU, animal transport rules prevented them from taking the dog back.
Suddenly, Raya’s life was in danger. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority placed her in quarantine and told the owners she would be put down.
The dog’s owner then created a Change.org petition, hoping to convince the Norwegian and Bulgarian Food Safety Authorities to reverse their decision, not wanting to see this innocent puppy die over legal technicalities.
“The dog is innocent, and I think the punishment does not correspond to the crime,” owner Alexey Iversen wrote.
And soon, the petition found its way to Jean-Claude Van Damme, who made it his personal mission to save the dog.
If you’re not very familiar with Van Damme’s personal life, this might be surprising. But the actor is a huge dog lover who has donated thousands of dollars towards rescues and adopted many pets, including his own chihuahua, so it’s easy to see why this story hit so close to home.
So Van Damme, who turned 60 on October 18, put out a message to his 5.3 million Instagram followers, asking their help signing the petition.
“I beg, please, for my birthday, the food safety authority, change your decision,” Van Damme said in an Instagram video, his chihuahua in his arms.
“They made a mistake, the people who didn’t do the paper correctly … But they cannot kill that little chihuahua.”
Van Damme brought widespread attention to the case, and it made a big difference.
Soon after he shared his pleas on social media, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority announced that an exception would be made, and the dog would not be euthanized and would be returned to Bulgaria.
While Van Damme has expressed sympathy why these regulations are in place, he thanked the agency for sparing the dog’s life, and his followers for supporting the petition.
“You saved that dog for us,” Van Damme said. “Thank you so much.”
Alexey Iversen was also grateful for Van Damme’s help, telling the New York Times that the actor restored “many people’s hopes in humanity and kindness.”
Jean-Claude Van Damme might be the toughest guy on screen, but in real life he’s definitely got a soft spot for animals — and he’s a true hero!
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