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Liffey rabbit accused denies cruelty charge

A DUBLIN man accused of throwing a homeless man's pet rabbit into the River Liffey has pleaded not guilty to an animal cruelty and torture charge.

John Byrne (pictured right), who had spent the previous 22 years living on the streets, had been sitting on O'Connell Bridge for 10 days when his pet rabbit Barney was thrown into the Liffey, on July 3, 2011.

Hundreds watched as the 39-year-old risked his own life and went into the river to save Barney; both were subsequently rescued by the Dublin Fire Brigade.

His rescue of the rabbit was captured on video and went viral on the internet with clips on YouTube getting tens of thousands of hits.

Gary Kearney (20), who is from Crumlin but has an address at Conyngham Road, in Dublin city centre, was later charged under the Protection of Animals Act in connection with the incident.

The charge states that it is alleged he "did cruelly torture or terrify an animal by throwing a rabbit into the River Liffey from O'Connell Bridge", on July 3 last year.

He also faces a breach of the peace charge.

His case had its 15th court listing and defence solicitor Aine Flynn said that a hearing date would be required adding that he was denying the charges.

Kearney, who was wearing a grey hooded top, navy tracksuit bottoms and white runners, spoke once saying "not guilty".

Judge William Hamill noted that the prosecution would be using CCTV evidence and calling four witnesses, while two people may testify for the defence.

Kearney, who is in custody in relation to other matters, was ordered to appear again at Dublin District Court on November 29 next when his non-jury trial will take place.

His charges, on conviction, can result in fines or prison terms.