APRIL 17, 2016 UPDATE: The dog smuggling charges against Amber Heard were dropped today.
Back in May, Johnny Depp, who was filming another sequel to “Pirates of the Caribbean” on the Gold Coast, apparently thought he and his wife, actress Amber Heard, could get around Australia’s pet quarantine laws by flying their Yorkies into the country on a private jet and hiding them in a handbag at the airport.
But the contraband canines, Boo and Pistol, were discovered not long after they arrived. An assistant took them to a groomer, who posted their photos on social media.
Like many countries (and Hawaii), Australia has strict quarantine laws for imported pets in order to prevent the spread of diseases like rabies. People traveling with their dogs must first apply for a permit. The length of the quarantine period varies; in Australia, it’s a minimum of 10 days.
When Australia’s Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce announced that Boo and Pearl would both be euthanized if they weren’t “buggered off back to the U.S.,” as he put it, it drew international ire. The social media campaign #WarOnTerrier was launched. More than 22,000 people signed a Change.org petition urging Joyce to spare the dogs’ lives.
On May 15, Heard flew back to California with Boo and Pistol on the private jet.
During a senate hearing 10 days later at the Parliament House in Canberra, government officials decided that if the case went to court, Depp could face up to 10 years in prison or a maximum fine of $250,000 (USD). The pilot of his private jet could also face up to two years in prison for not declaring the dogs.
“I have a feeling we’re going to avoid the land down under from now on, just as much as we can, thanks to certain politicians there,” Heard told Sunrise during a press junket in June for her movie, “Magic Mike XXL.”
“I guess everyone tries to go for their 15 minutes (of fame) … including some government officials.”
Interestingly, it turns out it’s not Depp who will be facing charges — it’s Heard. The Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions announced yesterday it was charging Heard with two counts of illegally importing dogs into Australia and one count of producing a false document.
According to The Australian, Heard is facing up to 10 years in prison and a maximum $75,000 (USD) fine for the illegal importation charge, and up to a year in prison and a maximum $8,000 (USD) fine for the false document charge.
Joyce insists the charges against Heard are not “mean.”
“The law is the same for everybody. There is no preferential treatment here,” he told The Australian yesterday. “You come into our nation, you have to abide (by) biosecurity protocols.”
Joyce said the possibility of a rabies outbreak would be catastrophic to Australia. “It’s not just the people on the streets that would be affected,” he said. “If that got out into the general wild dog population in Australia, which is massive, it would have devastating effects.”
Heard, who has not yet commented on the charges, was summoned to appear in a Queensland court Sept. 7.
Photo credit: GabboT