Johnny Depp may have been a success as swashbuckling Capt. Jack Sparrow, but any potential smuggling career of his own has hit a large rock in the shape of Australia.
His two beloved dogs are expected to fly back to Los Angeles by private jet on Friday, after the actor sparked controversy by sneaking the pups Down Under in a private Gulfstream V jet, according to officials.
Though it’s unclear how much the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star is paying to send his dogs home, hiring such a plane can cost more than $400,000, according to CNN’s Australian affiliate 7 Network.
Officials there are showing no mercy after Depp allegedly breached bio-security regulations by bringing his two dogs into their country without proper documentation.
Yorkshire terriers Boo and Pistol must be taken out of Australia by Saturday morning, officials have said, or risk being euthanized.
It’s all about the planning — as any pirate worth his salt should know — and landing on this particular island requires more than just a map showing where it is.
Pet travel experts say Australia is known for having some of the most stringent biosecurity regulations in the world.
The strict laws are to prevent the spread of non-native diseases such as rabies, ehrlichia, leishmania, leptospirosis and internal and external parasites.
Wrong place to smuggle little Treasure
“Australia is definitely the most complicated and strictest place to get a pet to,” said Emelye Bunny, manager of UK-based PBS Pet Travel.
“You have two things that are the first to be done: a rabies injection, a month’s wait after then a blood test to ensure it has been effective,” she said, with the date of the blood sample for pets in the UK needing to be 180 days before travel.
Closer to the travel date, cats and dogs need to have internal and external parasite treatments, blood tests and a government export certificate from Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In addition, she said, pets need an import permit from Australia and then 10 days quarantine on arrival.
According to Australia’s Department of Agriculture website, the same conditions apply for pets from the United States.
Tasman Sea neighbor New Zealand shares similarly strict regulations, meaning pets can travel between both countries without having to be quarantined. But coming from the United States, Pistol and Boo would have fared little better there.
In Europe, it is also easy to move dogs and cats between neighbors, Bunny said.
Citizens of member states can apply for a “pet passport,” used by cats and dogs — and ferrets. Pets must be microchipped to match them to their passports (or in some cases — pirates take note — have a tattoo). They must also have been vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before travel.
The United States is a common destination and easy to reach for Britons traveling with pets, Bunny said.
“We have regular customers traveling back and forth and then people who are relocating permanently. It’s so straightforward, so it’s something that happens a lot and very regularly,” she said. “When you start getting outside of Europe and the U.S.A. — places like South Africa, Dubai and Hong Hong — you start needing blood tests, vaccinations, etc.”
And it seems Depp could just as easily have been caught out in the waters better known to his alter ego Jack Sparrow.
“Challenging countries are New Zealand, Australia, Japan and some of the Caribbean islands — most of the places that are rabies-free,” said Kathleen Gallagher of Life Unleashed pet moving company.
Life Unleashed offer a chaperone service for pets, but many countries require that animals enter their territory only as manifested cargo, meaning they need to travel with a commercial carrier, she said.
“Even with my fly buddy service, there are certain countries you cannot bring a pet into unless it’s manifested cargo,” Gallagher said. “It doesn’t affect just air. Yachts run into that problem, too. You can’t just take your dogs off a boat in the Bahamas without proper protocol.”
Good looks don’t cut it
The presence of Depp’s dogs in Australia came to light when the grooming company he took them to posted photos online, but canine good looks and breeding are not enough to circumvent the rules.
The secretary of Britain’s Kennel Club, Caroline Kisko, said there were quite a number of British show dog owners who took them overseas to compete, but they tended remain within Europe, often driving in the undersea tunnel between the UK and France known as the Chunnel.
“People showing in the UK will show on the continent because it’s simple and straightforward. I think there are very, very few people who would fly their dogs to North America,” she said. “Certainly not Australia.”
And flying a pet anywhere abroad is not as straightforward as simply stowing a dachshund under the seat in front for takeoff.
Though pets tend to travel on normal passenger planes, with or without their owners, they can do so only in a specific cargo area of the aircraft.
“Not all aircraft are suitable,” Bunny said. “The aircraft has to have a specific area that is temperature-controlled and pressurized.”
The International Air Transport Association is responsible for regulations governing pet transport, for example the specifications of travel boxes particular breeds needed to be transported in.
Airlines in Britain have agencies to handle cargo at airports, Bunny said. “Trained members of staff ensure everything meets requirements before it’s accepted in for travel.”
Because everything is checked prior to departure, she said the chances of a pet being turned away on arrival are slim.
“When you travel with the airlines, you have to meet the country of export’s requirements, country of import’s requirements and the airline’s requirements,” Gallagher said. “(Depp) would have wanted to contact the government before he went, work with a commercial airline — perhaps one of Australia’s airlines — and sent them cargo.”
So had Johnny Depp flown with a commercial airline — or merely tried to send his canine friends off on an unaccompanied seafaring adventure on commercial ship — they would probably have avoided the life-or-death scenario they face now.
But — alas, poor pooches — Capt. Sparrow arrived by private jet.
As the famous Pirate of the Caribbean once said, “The only rules that really matter are these: What a man can do and what a man can’t do.”
Capt. Sparrow just learned what a man can’t do Down Under.