Tens of thousands of Moldovans have signed a petition calling for the authorities to punish a priest after he appeared in a social-media post apparently dragging a dog on a chain hooked to his car.
Ghenadie Valuta, an Orthodox priest known in Moldova for his antigay activism and publicity stunts, was forced on July 22 to stop his car by other motorists who had him release the dog from the chain.
Valuta, from Anenii-Noi, a village some 30 kilometers southeast of Moldova's capital, Chisinau, says in a video posted on the Internet that he chained the dog to the bumper to keep the interior of the car clean, but that he drove "very slowly for less than three kilometers." Pictures show the dog collapsed on the asphalt surrounded by bloodstains.
Following the posting of the incident on the Internet, more than 24,000 people signed a petition online calling for authorities to charge Valuta with animal cruelty, a crime for which he could be sentenced to up to three years in prison under Moldovan law.
Police have opened an investigation into the incident, and Bishop Ion Mosnegutu, a church spokesman, on July 23 said he was "stupefied" by Valuta's actions.
Valuta, who has organized several anti-LGBT marches in Moldova, was fined $670 earlier this month and ordered to apologize publicly after he sprinkled holy water on a female LGBT activist in Chisinau.
In January, Valuta prompted outrage in Moldova after posting online selfies in which he is smiling next to a dying woman.