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Man Who Threw Rabbit In River Is Jailed
A man has been jailed for snatching a homeless man's rabbit and hurling it into a river.
The animal's owner, John Byrne, had been begging on Dublin's O'Connell Bridge when his pet Barney was taken from his arms and thrown into the River Liffey.
The 37-year-old jumped into the water after his beloved pet and gave him the kiss of life, but was unable to save the rabbit. Both were pulled from the river by firefighters.
Gary Kearney pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to cruelly torturing or terrifying an animal and was sentenced to four months in prison.
The 20-year-old, who is originally from the Crumlin area of Dublin and was brought up in care, also admitted breach of the peace during the incident on July 3, 2011. He has 138 previous convictions.
Outside the court, Mr Byrne, who has been living on the streets for 23 years, said he was in shock when he saw Barney swimming around in circles, looking up at him.
"I wasn't going to leave him there," he said.
"I had to get him, I had to jump in to get him. Barney died in my arms. I got him under the bridge and gave him the kiss of life."
Mr Byrne said the sentence sent out a clear message to people who abuse animals that they will not walk out of court laughing.
He said: "I was scared. Wouldn't anybody (be scared) going into freezing cold water? And there is a seal there that would have eaten Barney.
"I can swim and I'd done life-saving before. Only for that I was gone. The current would have pulled me under."
He added that one of his three dogs, Lily, would not go out begging with him after witnessing the incident.
Within days of his pet's death, Mr Byrne was given a Compassionate Citizen Award for going above and beyond the call of duty to help an animal in need.