Sydney (AFP) – Former NBA player Lamar Patterson had his French bulldog seized by notoriously strict Australian customs officials who found the animal stashed inside the athlete’s hand luggage.
Patterson, who recently signed for the Brisbane Bullets, had the pooch — called Kobe — in his carry-on when he arrived in Australia on Thursday.
“Biosecurity officers at Brisbane Airport have seized a dog that arrived on a flight from the United States undeclared and without an import permit,” the department of agriculture said in a statement.
The case is reminiscent of the Johnny Depp “war on terrier” saga — when the Hollywood star and his then-wife Amber Heard fell foul of Australia’s strict quarantine laws in failing to declare pets Pistol and Boo on arrival on a private jet in 2015.
Heard escaped with a fine and a good behaviour bond, but a war of words erupted between Depp and then-Australian deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, who threatened to have the dogs destroyed.
Patterson had flown on internal US flights that allowed Kobe onboard, before taking a Qantas flight from Los Angeles to Brisbane where the dog went unnoticed.
The 27-year-old said his ticket detailed that he was travelling with an animal, but there had been a “miscommunication” between himself and the airlines.
“Once I got to Australia the only reason I got found out about him (Kobe) was because he started barking when he saw the search dog,” he told reporters Friday.
Patterson said Kobe had slept quietly during the long flight.
“I wasn’t trying to scam my way into Australia with the dog, I just didn’t know,” he said.
“If this is the biggest news in Australia, it is an amazing place to live, so I’m looking forward to being here.”
The agriculture department said the basketballer was fined Aus$420 (US$300) and Kobe was sent back to the US.
“The dog has been directed for export from Australia and is scheduled to depart today,” the department said.
Under Australian laws designed to keep disease at bay, dogs entering from the United States must be declared and have to spend at least 10 days in quarantine.