Johnny Depp’s dogs have fled Australia for the US after the Australian agriculture minister accused the Hollywood actor of sneaking them into the country.
A Department of Agriculture officer escorted Yorkshire terriers Pistol and Boo from Depp’s home – where they had been temporarily quarantined – to the airport, minister Barnaby Joyce said.
The tiny outlaws boarded a flight to California hours before a government-imposed deadline that the dogs leave Australia or be put down.
The hastily arranged departure came after Mr Joyce accused Depp of smuggling the dogs aboard his private jet when he returned to Australia on April 21 to resume filming of the fifth instalment in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series at Gold Coast Studios.
Australia has strict quarantine regulations to prevent diseases such as rabies spreading to its shores. Taking pets into the country involves applying for a permit and a quarantine on arrival of at least 10 days.
The Agriculture Department told Depp and his wife Amber Heard on Wednesday that they had to send Pistol and Boo back to the United States within 72 hours or the animals would be put down.
“If you start letting movie stars – even though they’ve been the sexiest man alive twice – to come into our nation (with pets), then why don’t we just break laws for everybody?” Mr Joyce said.
The drama prompted a petition to save the dogs and the social media hashtag #WarOnTerrier. Mr Joyce received both commendation and criticism, with some praising him for defending Australia’s laws and others cringing over a perceived crass response.
A spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department said Depp’s case was a rarity, with only an average of one dog per year arriving in Australia without the proper permit. The choice given to Depp was in line with policy: either returning the animal to its home country or having it put down.