Former NBA player brings dog to Australia in hand luggage

AUSTRALIA — A former NBA player has been fined for smuggling a dog into Australia in his hand luggage, breaking the country’s strict bio-security laws.

Lamar Patterson arrived at Brisbane Airport Thursday from Los Angeles, carrying his French Bulldog Kobe who sat in a dog carrier at his feet for the duration of the 14-hour flight.

Kobe is featured heavily on Patterson’s Instagram account, playing with Patterson and traveling with him abroad.

“I wasn’t aware of the policies and the rules here or the regulations,” Patterson said at a news conference Friday.

The athlete said he travels with his dog all the time, and he was surprised that no alarm bells were raised until he landed in Australia.

“It was on my ticket that I was traveling with an animal, so I guess it was just a misunderstanding,” he said.

Patterson isn’t the first American to make news for trying to bring dogs into Australia.

Actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard made headlines in 2015 when they smuggled two Yorkshire terriers into the country while filming the most recent installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise.

The case gained international attention after the now-divorced couple got into a public spat with former Australian Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, who threatened to euthanize the dogs.

This time there were no threats of euthanasia.

The former University of Pittsburgh standout was fined $300 and the dog, a French Bulldog named Kobe, was sent back to the US, according to a statement from the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

“Kobe’s like a child of mine,” Patterson said. “I’ll get through it. I have basketball to work on … he’s in good hands back home.”

Strict laws

Dogs are only allowed to enter Australia if they meet the country’s stringent pre-import requirements, and once they arrive they must undergo a minimum of 10 days in government quarantine. The laws are intended to protect the country’s unique flora and fauna.

“The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources will be investigating the circumstances, including airline procedures, that led to the dog arriving in Australia,” the Department said in a news release.

“Dogs imported to Australia must be accompanied by a valid import permit, and have undergone relevant testing and health checks signed off by a government veterinarian from the exporting country.”

The Bullets said in a news release that Patterson contacted both airlines he flew to make sure it was okay to bring Kobe with him.

“His understanding from the feedback received from the airlines was that he was able to travel with the dog provided it was noted on his ticket, which he complied with,” the statement read.

“Lamar passed through security at LAX with the dog and was not stopped or questioned, nor was he stopped or questioned when boarding the flight to Brisbane where he had the dog in the cabin in a dog carrier bag.”

Kobe is now back in the US, the team said.

Patterson, 27, joined the Brisbane Bullets after a strong season in the Chinese NBL season, averaging 45 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per game. He was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft but was traded to the Atlanta Hawks. He had a brief stint in the NBA before before playing internationally.

Depp and Heard’s dogs, Pistol and Boo, were also sent back to the US.

At the time, the couple apologized in a somber but strange video, though Depp would go on to call Joyce an “inbred tomato” and Joyce said he was Depp’s “Hannibal Lecter.”

Heard, an actress who has appeared in films including “Magic Mike XXL” and “The Danish Girl,” was spared a conviction when she pleaded guilty to knowingly producing a false or misleading document, while two other charges of illegally importing her dogs were dismissed.

Depp was not charged over the incident.