SYDNEY – Johnny Depp's wife, Amber Heard, has been charged with illegally bringing the couple's dogs to Australia -- an incident that captured global attention after the nation's agriculture minister angrily ordered the pooches to get out of the country or face death.
Heard was charged this week with two counts of illegally importing Pistol and Boo into Australia and one count of producing a false document, the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions said on Thursday.
The importation charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of 102,000 Australian dollars ($75,000). The false document charge, which relates to information on an incoming passenger card, carries a penalty of up to one year in prison and a fine of AU$10,200.
The doggie debacle began in May, after Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce accused Depp, 52, of smuggling the couple's Yorkshire terriers aboard his private jet when he returned to Australia to resume filming of the fifth movie in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series.
Australia has strict quarantine regulations to prevent diseases such as rabies from spreading to its shores. Bringing pets into the country involves applying for a permit and quarantine on arrival of at least 10 days.
"If we 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 the laws for everybody?" Joyce said at the time. "It's time that Pistol and Boo buggered off back to the United States."
Officials gave Depp and Heard 72 hours to send Pistol and Boo back to the U.S., warning that if they weren't, the dogs would be euthanized. A Department of Agriculture officer later escorted the tiny terriers from the couple's mansion on Queensland's Gold Coast to the airport, where the dogs boarded a flight to the U.S. just hours before the deadline.
Joyce's comments were parodied worldwide, prompted a petition to save Pistol and Boo and sparked the social media hashtag (hash)WarOnTerrier.
Asked about the charges during an interview with Sky News, Joyce suggested Heard would not be getting any special treatment.
"You, I, everybody -- we're equal before the law," he said.
The prosecutor's office would not answer questions about why Depp wasn't charged, citing the ongoing nature of the case. The Department of Agriculture, which conducted the investigation, also declined to comment, saying the decision on charges was up to prosecutors.
Heard was issued a summons to appear in a Queensland court on Sept. 7.
In an interview last month, the 29-year-old actress said she and Depp planned to avoid Australia as much as possible in the future "thanks to certain politicians there."
"I don't know, I guess everyone tries to go for their 15 minutes, including some government officials," she told Australia's Channel 7.
A representative for Depp did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.