SYDNEY (AFP) - Johnny Depp's pet dogs Pistol and Boo were expected to fly out of Australia on Friday to avoid being destroyed in a complex but often comical quarantine wrangle.
The actor, who is in Australia to film Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, first faces a formal interview with quarantine officers as part of investigations into how the animals were allegedly smuggled into the country.
Sydney's Daily Telegraph said Depp and wife Amber Heard had told the agriculture department they will fly out with Boo and Pistol on Friday night.
But agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce, who has led an extraordinary public campaign warning the dogs could be put down within hours, voiced fears the United States might not let them back in.
He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Friday he was "seriously worried" they might not have the right permits to return home and could be left "stateless".
"The question is if he breached our laws, then did he follow the correct laws in the US?" Joyce said. "My worry is will the US let them back in? If not ... will they have anywhere to go?" That, he added, could still lead to them being put down.
Depp appears certain to face a fine for breaching Australian laws under which dogs entering from the US have to spend at least 10 days in quarantine.
"We can't make an exception for Johnny Depp," Joyce said. "We have strict laws for a good reason."
The minister's call Thursday for the pets to "bugger off" back to Hollywood sparked a social media frenzy, with thousands signing a petition to save them and the hashtag #WarOnTerrier trending.
Joyce clashed Friday with one of Australia's top radio "shock jocks" who ended up branding the minister "an absolute clown", and worse.
Kyle Sandilands accused Joyce of poor judgement as a verbal joust descended into insults on one of the nation's most popular live radio shows at KIIS 1065.
"You sound like an absolute clown telling the guy to bugger off back to Hollywood or we'll kill his dogs," Sandilands said. "You sound like an idiot. You should have re-worded your statement. You're a government minister - have some decency."
Joyce hit back saying: "You're a savage little man aren't you?" before Sandilands hung up.