Amber Heard avoids jail in Australian dog-smuggling spat

Actor Johnny Depp and his wife, Amber Heard, speak in a videotaped apology.

SYDNEY — Actor Johnny Depp’s wife Amber Heard pleaded guilty Monday to providing a false immigration document when the couple brought their two dogs into Australia last year, but she managed to avoid jail time over what was dubbed the “war on terrier” debacle.

Prosecutors dropped more serious charges that Heard illegally imported the Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, into the country while Depp was filming the fifth movie in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series. A conviction on the two illegal importation counts could have sent the actress to prison for up to 10 years.

Depp and Heard said little to the waiting throng of reporters and fans outside the Southport Magistrates Court on Queensland state’s Gold Coast, but they did submit a videotaped apology to the court that was played during the hearing.

It drew gibes online for the couple’s grim, wooden appearance as Heard apologized and they both expressed support for protecting Australia’s biodiversity, the aim of the strict quarantine regulations that were violated.

The drama over the dogs began last May, when Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce accused Depp of smuggling the tiny terriers aboard his private jet when he returned to Australia to resume filming the movie.

Bringing pets into Australia involves applying for a permit and quarantine on arrival of at least 10 days to prevent the spread of diseases such as rabies.

“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.”

Depp and Heard were given 72 hours to send Pistol and Boo back to the U.S., with officials warning that the dogs would otherwise be euthanized. The pooches boarded a flight home just hours before the deadline.

The comments by Joyce, who is now the deputy prime minister of Australia, elevated what might otherwise have been a local spat into a global delight for comedians and broadcasters.

Joyce posted a link to the couple’s apology video on his Facebook page, and later told reporters he doubted it was something the pair would have “willingly wanted to do.” Still, he gave them credit for acknowledging they had made a mistake.