This Russian raccoon is the centre of a bizarre row involving a potential lawsuit, a naked actress, and a possibly mangled bra.
Back in August last year, Thomas, a raccoon, took part in an advertising campaign, made by Art-Msk in Moscow, Russia.
The petting zoo which owns and looks after Thomas claims they were unaware the shoot would include a naked model. The zoo – called Animals Aren’t Toys – said it was immoral to use an animal in that way.
They complained and asked the video company to withdraw the material. However, the company ignored the request, leading the zoo to file their first complaint with the local district court in October. When this reportedly went unanswered, they said they filed a second complaint in March.
With the second filing, the story was picked by some Russian media outlets.
Life published a story on their website with stills from the shoot, as well as the video, on Mar. 15.
On the same day, Russian TV station Channel 5 interviewed petting zoo staff, who alleged their raccoon had been "traumatised" by the experience. One of the staff was quoted on the show saying after the raccoon interacted with a naked woman he "now behaves strangely". "The raccoon, according to the vet, is in a state of shock and does not admit even his own cohabitant in his cage," they added.
But Art-Msk – speaking to Life – called the lawsuit "absurd", and claimed Thomas had stolen the model's bra on set. They claimed to have asked for a well-trained raccoon, and said Thomas was instead too "young" and "unmanageable".
"Finally, after several takes, he stole the underwear and gnawed it," they added.
But already, suspicions about the dispute were rife.
As interest in the raccoon rumbled on, images from the ad campaign remain up and on the studio's website.
But the zoo maintains the lawsuit and dispute is legit.
Victor Kiryukhin, a spokesperson for the zoo, said they had thought the raccoon would be used in a promotional video for bed linen.
He told BuzzFeed News they had agreed to the video, without being paid, "because raccoons are very sociable animals who love socializing with humans".
"We’re against use of animals in erotic video shoots! Especially because our raccoon lives in a children’s zoo, so it’s unacceptable to use him in such videos!"
Kiryukhin continued that the petting zoo demanded the studio delete all their materials – which they have not done – but had not asked for any financial compensation. He confirmed that after filing court papers in October, they had filed a second round of papers on March 14, and were waiting for a date for the first hearing.
"We tried to solve the issues with the studio in a peaceful way, but they’ve just ignored us," he added.
The studio told BuzzFeed News they would not "try to confirm or deny" that the whole thing was a PR stunt.
Valeriy Bogatov, spokesperson for Art-Msk, said he "understood" that people would assume his studio had made "this whole situation up".
"We won’t try to confirm or deny this. Everyone is free to interpret the world around them the way that seems right to them. If we won’t be able to settle this peacefully we’d like to file our own court claim to the zoo too."
Bogatov, who claimed the studio had never received the first court papers, continued that if the petting zoo continued with the "absurd" suit, then they would ask "for compensation for our actress’s bra that was eaten by the raccoon right on the shooting stage".