Youth who threw rabbit into Liffey admits animal cruelty
A Dublin youth has pleaded guilty to an animal cruelty and torture charge after a homeless man’s pet rabbit was thrown into the river Liffey last year.
John Byrne (39), who had spent the previous 22 years living on the streets, had been sitting on O’Connell Bridge in Dublin city centre on July 3rd, 2011, when his pet rabbit, Barney, was thrown into the water.
Hundreds of people watched as Mr Byrne went into the river to save Barney. Both he and his rabbit were subsequently rescued by the Dublin Fire Brigade. The incident 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 stated that it was alleged he “did cruelly torture or terrify an animal”.
He also faces a charge of breaching the peace.
Last month at Dublin District Court, Kearney had denied the charges against him and the case was set down for hearing yesterday.
Mr Byrne had turned up to give evidence.
However, when the case, which was on its 16th court listing, was called, Judge Ann Watkin was told that Kearney was serving a sentence.
Defence solicitor Áine Flynn said Kearney had not been brought to court but she informed the judge that her client had changed his plea.
Judge Watkin noted that Kearney was now pleading guilty to the offence and the case was adjourned for facts to be heard on December 4th.
The charges, on conviction, could result in fines or prison terms.
Mr Byrne, who is originally from Ballyfermot, Dublin, was presented with a compassionate citizen award by the charity Animal Rights Action Network last year.
A supply of carrots for the rabbit and food for Mr Byrne’s dog, Lilly, also came with the award.
“Barney and Lilly my dog are my babies,” Mr Byrne had said afterwards, adding that he would not hesitate in coming to the rescue of his pets.