Dogs, biosecurity and Johnny Depp

The recent story about Johnny Depp’s Yorkshire Terriers, Pistol and Boo, and their deportation from Australia has some lessons in it that I think have been overlooked.

That’s not totally surprising when you have an Australian Minister like Barnaby Joyce fronting to the media with comments like  “It’s time that Pistol and Boo buggered off back to the United States.”

Inflammatory, yes.  Headline grabbing – yes.   But lacking in good information for people to understand the Australian position on the dogs and what the public needs to know when arriving in the country.

Happy Dogz salon's Lianne and Ellie Kent with Pistol and Boo; it was the dogs' visit to the groomers and the subsequent Facebook photos that caught the attention of the Australian authorities

Happy Dogz salon’s Lianne and Ellie Kent with Pistol and Boo; it was the dogs’ visit to the groomers and the subsequent Facebook photos that caught the attention of the Australian authorities

Australia and New Zealand have some very unique flora and fauna – thanks to their geographic isolation from other continents.  The countries are also free of diseases like rabies which are a worry in other western countries like the United States and the UK and mean that animals there must be vaccinated (whereas here, they are not).

Animals can be imported to both Australia and New Zealand, but they are subject to quarantine to ensure that they are not carrying any diseases that could run rampant in these sensitive environments.   There are also requirements when importing semen, for example, for dog breeding.

So, Pistol and Boo were a legitimate biosecurity risk and their presence in the Depp party was apparently not declared.  And I hear that the Australian authorities are now investigating this to find out if Depp, or another member of his party, knowingly broke the law.

At this point, I’m prepared to give Depp the benefit of the doubt.  He and his wife love their dogs and are in the fortunate position to be able to fly them in comfort around the world in a private plane (whereas most of us can’t afford to travel long distances with our dogs, let alone worrying about them as they are treated as luggage in the holds of commercial aircraft).

They also have an ‘entourage’ that attends to their personal needs, and so I do wonder just how switched on Depp was in terms of filling out declaration forms on his arrival in Australia.  I suspect someone in his employment took care of these minor details for him – just as someone in his employment took the dogs to the groomers which started this whole saga to begin with.

So the lessons from all of this?

  • Love your dog, travel with them if you can, but understand your destination requirements in terms of quarantine and also your dog’s health
  • Understand biosecurity risks and obey the requirements of the country you are visiting
  • Treat breaches of laws seriously, but with respect for all parties.  Innocent until proven guilty, etc.
  • And use ‘headline grabbing’ stories for educational opportunities -an opportunity that Australia seems to have missed thanks to a headline-grabbing Minister

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

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