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war on terrier

Why did Australia react so badly to Johnny Depp's dogs?

The awkward, deadpan video has been roundly made fun of but it does have a serious issue underneath. / YouTube

YESTERDAY, ACTOR JOHNNY Depp and his actress wife Amber Heard released a bizarre video apologising for smuggling their dogs into Australia.

The case made global headlines last May after Australia’s Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce threatened to have the pets, Pistol and Boo, put down unless they “buggered off back to the United States”.

The apology was played in court as Heard escaped conviction after pleading guilty to falsifying immigration forms when she brought the dogs into Australia, where Depp was filming Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

The awkward, deadpan video has been roundly made fun of but it does have a serious issue underneath – namely that Heard could have been jailed for 10 years.

Australia, as anyone who has watched Nothing To Declare will attest, is strict about what can and can’t come into the country.

Under strict biosecurity laws, dogs entering Australia from the United States must be declared and spend 10 days in quarantine. Penalties range up to 10 years in prison.

Agriculture authorities issued a statement following the case saying Heard made “a false declaration on her Incoming Passenger Card, saying she was not travelling with any live animals when she did, in fact, have two dogs in her luggage.”

59th BFI London Film Festival - Black Mass Premiere Doug Peters Doug Peters

While travelling with two dogs may not sound like something to worry about, Joyce was unequivocal.

“The consequences of a disease outbreak could have been terrifying. We can’t take the risk.”

Last year, Joyce said that the country’s laws were in place to stop a rabies outbreak, which is at the heart of Australia’s laws.

The country has a massive native species population and many of those are wild but Australia is one of relatively few countries in the world considered rabies-free.

Australia has more than 378 mammal species, 828 bird species, 4000 fish species, 300 species of lizards, 140 snake species, two crocodile species and around 50 types of marine mammal.

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To protect the spread of rabies or other pathogens, they have to be strict.

“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.”

Australia’s eco-system is also fairly delicate. In the early 20th century, the country introduced the cane toad to Queensland, hoping to control the cane beetle population. Unfortunately for them, the toads had little impact on the beetles, thrived and are now pests which the government is trying to eradicate.

Indeed, the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out five recent biosecurity disasters which threatened Australia.

So, while the country may look to have over-reacted by threatening to kill Depp’s dogs, there is a logic behind the laws.

Read: Take a break and check out this supermarket which invites customers to bring their dogs shopping>

Read: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard release awkward apology video over dog smuggling

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