SYDNEY, Australia – Australia’s “war on terrier” with Johnny Depp has taken another turn, with authorities saying Thursday, July 16 the Hollywood star’s wife faces charges over bringing their two dogs into the country. (READ: ‘War on Terrier’ – Johnny Depp’s dogs face death in Australia)
The Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for biosecurity, said actress-model Amber Heard was served with a summons on Tuesday, July 14 to answer charges for allegedly breaching quarantine laws.
“(This) action follows an incident where a biosecurity officer attended a Gold Coast property… and found two dogs alleged to be illegally imported,” a department spokeswoman said.
Reports said the case was due to be heard in September in a Queensland state court, though it is not known whether Heard will appear in person.
Penalties for contravening the Quarantine Act range from fines to a maximum of 10 years in prison for the worst cases.
Terriers Pistol and Boo created a media storm earlier this year when they were discovered in Queensland, where Depp is filming Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, seemingly having bypassed the usual conditions for animals brought into Australia.
The dogs’ presence in Australia only came to light when they were taken to a grooming salon.
Dogs are subject to strict controls for biosecurity reasons, with a permit mandatory and a minimum 10-day stay in a quarantine facility on arrival required.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce threatened to have the animals put down unless they were removed, warning in May that: “It’s time that Pistol and Boo buggered off back to the United States.”
After the summons against Heard was issued, Joyce said he was unable to comment on matters before a court hearing but the law was the same for everybody.
“You come into our nation, you have to abide (by) biosecurity protocols,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Joyce said a rabies outbreak, a major fear from dog importation, would have widespread ramifications.
“It’s not just the people on the streets that would be affected, if that got out into the general wild dog population in Australia, which is massive, it would have devastating effects,” he said.
“It’s also a pathogen that could make its way into the bat population, and how many towns do you know that have a bat colony smack bang, unfortunately, in the middle of town? We’ve got enough problems with them, let alone if they became rabid.”
Pistol and Boo returned to the United States in the days after their discovery in late May. Speaking to Australian media later, Heard indicated an unwillingness to return to the country. (READ: Johnny Depp finds Australia ‘war on terrier’ ‘quite humorous’)
“I have a feeling we are going to avoid the land Down Under from now on just as much as we can thanks to certain politicians there,” she told Australia’s Channel Seven in an apparent reference to Joyce.
“I guess everyone tries to go for their 15 minutes (of fame), including some government officials.”
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said Thursday the law should apply equally to passengers on commercial flights and private jets.
“Regardless of whether people are coming in by Qantas flight or coming on a private jet, they should be subject to the same clearance arrangements and that is the way in which the law is written,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB.
“So, we need to make sure that in practice that is happening as well, and we need to make sure that the proper checks are undertaken.”
Depp has charmed Australians during his stay in Queensland, spending time with fans on location and visiting sick children in hospital dressed as his pirate character Jack Sparrow. – Madeleine Coorey, AFP/Rappler.com