Johnny Depp’s dogs to flee Australia amid death threat

Barnaby Joyce said he was told the Yorkshire terriers were expected to return to the US aboard a private jet, after the government ordered the actor to get his dogs out of Australia by Saturday or they would be euthanised.

Johnny Depp’s dogs - Pistol and Boo - were preparing on Friday to flee Australia for the United States. Dan Steinberg / Invision/ AP File

SYDNEY // Facing the threat of imminent death, Johnny Depp’s dogs Pistol and Boo were preparing on Friday to flee Australia for the United States after Australia’s agriculture minister angrily accused the Hollywood actor of sneaking the pups into the country.

Barnaby Joyce said he was told the Yorkshire terriers were expected to return to the US aboard a private jet, after the government ordered the actor to get his dogs out of Australia by Saturday or they would be euthanised.

Mr Joyce told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the dogs’ imminent departure was “the best news that I’ve got”.

The canine chaos erupted after Mr Joyce accused Mr 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 film series at Gold Coast studios.

Australia has strict quarantine regulations to prevent diseases such as rabies spreading to its shores. Bringing pets into the country involves applying for a permit and a quarantine period on arrival of at least 10 days.

The Agriculture Department told Mr Depp, 51, and his 29-year-old 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 euthanised.

“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. “It’s time that Pistol and Boo b******d off back to the United States.”

The drama proved popular on social media, prompting a petition to save the dogs and the hashtag #WarOnTerrier. In Australia, Mr Joyce’s tough stance attracted both commendation and criticism, with some praising the minister for defending the nation’s laws, and others cringing over what they viewed as his crass response.

During an interview, radio shock jock Kyle Sandilands said the minister had invited the wrath of all dog lovers and had made Australians sound like “a bunch of hillbilly redneck losers.”

Mr Joyce, undeterred, responded that the law was the law.

The agriculture department discovered that Mr Depp snuck the dogs into Australia after hearing that a handler had taken the terriers to a Gold Coast dog groomer on Saturday, Mr Joyce said.

A biosecurity officer found the dogs at a Gold Coast house on Wednesday.

Mr Depp’s publicist has not responded to requests for comment.

The department is investigating how the pets were brought through Brisbane Airport without an import permit.

* Associated Press