Alright folks, strap in. This is the epic tale of a celebrity couple, a bloodthirsty politician, two Yorkshire Terriers, and a country that values biosecurity more than anyone could possibly imagine.
Let's start off by identifying the major players. In the centre, that's Johnny Depp. He's a pretty famous dude – you might remember him from such films as Pirates of the Carribean. Amber Heard, actor, model, and Depp's soon-to-be ex-wife is to his right. On the left – yep, the angry man – that's Barnaby Joyce. He's the Australian deputy prime minister and agriculture minister. And then on each end, we've got Depp and Heard's Yorkshire terriers Pistol and Boo.
Pistol and Boo flew to Australia via private jet, arriving on 21 April 2015.
Upon their arrival, Amber Heard failed to declare the pups on her incoming passenger card, saying she had no live animals with her. This a BIG no-no in Australia, which, as an island, has remained mercifully free of various diseases (like rabies) and consequently has seriously strict laws around what you can bring into the country.
The puny pooches flew under the radar for a few weeks – but, like so many celebrities, vanity was ultimately their downfall.
Yes, that's right – Pistol and Boo visited the Happy Dogz grooming salon on Queensland's Gold Coast.
Understandably stoked about their celebrity clients, the business posted a picture of the dogs to their Facebook page – and unwittingly outed their illegal adventure Down Under, kicking off one of the biggest stories of the year.
On 13 May, the government was notified of Pistol and Boo's presence – and all hell broke loose. Basically, instead of keeping everything calm, Barnaby Joyce threatened to kill the dogs.
“If he doesn’t take Boo and Pistol back we do have to euthanase them," Joyce said. “Just because he’s Johnny Depp doesn’t make him exempt from Australian laws."
A biosecurity officer gave the dogs 72 hours to get out or face the chop. It was the biggest story in the country for days.
In a comment that now seems slightly harsh, Joyce reiterated the deathly countdown during a press conference.
"He's now got about 50 hours left to remove the dogs," Joyce said.
It quickly became clear Joyce doesn't much care for celebrity – particularly when Australian biosecurity is at stake.
"If we start letting movie stars – even though they've been [voted] the Sexiest Man Alive twice – to come into our nation, then why don't we just break the laws for everybody?" he said.
"It's time Pistol and Boo buggered off back to the United States."
The news of the Australian politician and the celebrity dogs quickly spread across the globe. A petition was launched. Some macabre individual started a death countdown website. And thousands of people took part in a poll over whether the dogs should die.
And then, on 15 May, Pistol and Boo fled the country on a private jet.
The dogs were safe, and Joyce was pretty bloody chuffed. Some might have thought that was that, problem solved. But Australians take biosecurity VERY seriously.
In fact, the issue was brought up in a parliamentary hearing later that month, about a week and a half after Pistol and Boo were safe out of the hands of a bloodthirsty Joyce.
A group of Australian politicians questioned department officials about the biosecurity fail, and counted themselves lucky the dogs had not wrought any destruction in their time on the loose.
"If they had a disease it could've been too late — shut the gate, the horse has bolted," one senator said. "They've been out there for three weeks in the public arena."
In the same hearing, senators were told that Heard could face a fine of up to $340,000 for her doggy indiscretion – or up to 10 YEARS IN PRISON.
One senator did his best to see the bright side of a situation in which international news outlets discussed Australia’s penchant for dog murder, saying at least people knew about the customs system now.
“Regardless of the particular circumstances, the strength of Australia’s biosecurity is much, much better understood and it’s been a pretty good advertisement for our system,” he said. Er, okay.
Things quietened down for a while ... but then in June 2015, Australia got its first taste of just how annoyed Depp and Heard were about the whole scandal.
In an interview on Sunrise, Heard said they wouldn't be heading Down Under anytime soon.
“I have a feeling we’re going to avoid the land down under from now on, just as much as we can, thanks to certain politicians there,” she said.
“I don’t know, I guess everyone tries to go for their 15 minutes, including some government officials.”
Heard added that Pistol was with her that day and “doing just fine”.
And then in September, Depp called Joyce a "sweaty, big-gutted man" at a press conference in Venice.
As it turns out, Depp and Heard were really quite angry about the fact an entire country had turned on their dogs.
The sniping was fine, whatever, but then things got worse.
On 15 December, the Southport Magistrates Court ordered Heard to stand trial for bringing the dogs into Australia.
Charged with two counts of illegal importation of an animal and one count of producing a false document, Heard would have to attend a four-day trial on the Gold Coast in April 2016.
To add insult to injury, a couple of days later, Joyce won an actual award for his efforts to preserve Australian biosecurity.
He won the Froggatt Award from the Invasive Species Council for the hardline approach he took on Pistol and Boo.
Joyce's good fortune continued in February, when he was promoted to DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA.
It was all a bit too real. There were lots of references to that Simpsons episode where they go to Australia.
Finally, on April 18 2016 – almost a year to the day after Pistol and Boo first landed on Aussie soil – Depp and Heard had their day in court.
A media scrum gathered outside Southport Magistrates. Queensland newspaper the Courier Mail offered this delightful tidbit of the last time a case had garnered so much interest:
But in the end, the trial was a bit of a fizzer. Heard changed her plea to guilty, the charges of illegal importation were dropped, and she was handed a $1000, one month good behaviour bond.
Case closed? Well, not quite.
There was an apology video. Oh my god, the apology video. Here it is:
As part of the court case, Depp and Heard recorded a bizarre public apology for flouting Australian biosecurity laws. Various media outlets labelled the 40-second footage “a lo-fi hostage video”, a “triumph of minimalist cinema”, and “excruciatingly awkward”.
In what has been proclaimed the greatest owning in Australian history, Joyce uploaded the video to his Facebook page in the hours after Heard's sentence was handed down.
Here is the transcript, in full:
Heard: Australia is a wonderful island with a treasure trove of unique plants, animals and people.
Depp: That has to be protected.
Heard: Australia is free of many pests and diseases that are common place around the world. That is why Australia has to have such strong biosecurity laws.
Depp: And Australians are just as unique, both warm and direct. When you disrespect Australian law they will tell you firmly.
Heard: I am truly sorry Pistol and Boo were not declared. Protecting Australia is important.
Depp: Declare everything when you enter Australia. Thanks.
Such a spanking had truly never occurred in Australia's history.
"Australia is a wonderful island" became the best mock Australian catchphrase since "Where the bloody hell are you?" And everyone had *so many questions* about what the heck was happening in the baffling piece of cinema.
Why does it look like someone behind the camera is holding a gun? Why is Depp so sad? Why is Heard so earnest? Why would anyone agree to this kind of public humiliation? Did Joyce know what he was doing when he uploaded it to Facebook?
The tweets were simply devastating.
(And yes, people referenced that Simpsons episode again.)
A few weeks later, Depp couldn't resist having a crack at Australia at a press conference in the UK.
“I really would like to … I will do this everywhere I go. I would really like to apologise for not smuggling my dogs into England, because it would have been a bad thing to do,” he said.
Depp trailed off talking about how Australians are "chipper".
“Because the Australians … though chipper, and … you know.”
Was this the end? Surely this was the end. (It wasn't the end.)
Depp once again sledged Joyce – this time on Jimmy Kimmel! – saying he looks like he is inbred with a tomato.
“It’s not a criticism. I was a little worried. He just might explode," Depp told Kimmel.
“[The dogs are] minuscule, tiny teacup things, clearly dangerous in Australia, because there’s so many poisonous creatures in Australia, you can die at any minute, so the dogs are obviously a problem in Australia,” Depp said.
“I think the choice [the Australian government] made to utilise the taxpayers’ dollars to globally chase down a couple of teacup yorkies and give them 50 hours to live … I realised the badness of my ways so I was kind of repenting.”
But Joyce wasn't left any more red-faced than usual. He hit right back, saying he had become Depp's Hannibal Lecter.
“I’m pulling little strings and pulling little levers. Long after I’ve forgotten about Mr Depp, he’s remembering me,” Joyce said. “I think I’m turning into Johnny Depp’s Hannibal Lecter.”
He continued the Hannibal reference on Twitter.
It was a lot like this:
The next day, in a sad twist, it was reported by TMZ that Heard had filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences with Depp.
The Australian media – a little lost and bored in the middle of an eight week election campaign – asked Joyce about it. But he knew to stop the sledging.
Even that of his ultimate arch-nemesis, Hollywood star Johnny Depp.
So now you know. That's everything that happened in The War On Terrier, 2015-16.
Obviously Joyce. Depp can't let this go.Depp is still a movie star and Joyce is still an Australian politician, so... Depp.Everybody lost a long, long time ago.Please – this ain't over!
vote votesObviously Joyce. Depp can't let this go.
vote votesDepp is still a movie star and Joyce is still an Australian politician, so... Depp.
vote votesEverybody lost a long, long time ago.
vote votesPlease – this ain't over!