A HOMELESS man whose rabbit was thrown in the River Liffey while he was begging on the street has recalled his frantic attempts to save its life after the man responsible was jailed for four months.
In July last year John Byrne, inset, was begging on Dublin's O'Connell Bridge when he was approached by a group of men who snatched his pet rabbit, Barney, from his arms and thrown "like a rag doll" into the River Liffey.
Gary Kearney (20) – who is originally from Crumlin – pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to animal cruelty and torture and was yesterday sentenced to four months in detention for the crime.
The 20-year-old, also admitted breach of the peace during the incident on July 3, 2011.
Recounting the day the incident happened, Mr Byrne said his instinctive reaction was jump in after the animal, who was "splashing about in the water".
"I immediately jumped in feet first. I was 40 minutes in the water before anybody got me. Luckily I'm able to swim and I know life-saving so that was what kept me alive. I brought him up to the bridge and he died in my arms. I gave him the kiss of life and his heart started beating."
Within days he was given a Compassionate Citizen Award for going above and beyond the call of duty to help an animal in need.
He added: "I sleep in a tent around the city centre. I'd like to find work but I'm on sickness benefit at the moment. I had accommodation as well but the landlord wouldn't allow me live with my animals."
The 37-year-old has been homeless for the past 24 years.
The court heard the culprit Kearney was brought up in care, has 138 previous convictions and is already in detention at St Patrick's Institution.
John Carmody, of animal rights group Aran, said Kearney should have been given a ban for life on owning animals.
"But we are delighted this guy was given four months. It sends a strong message."