By Laura Simpson
Every year, pet guardians perish in desperate attemtps to save their drowning pets. It’s a scenario that unfolds all too often. But recently there was a rare bright spot in the realm of watery accidents as justice was handed down in the case of a man who threw a pet bunny into a river, forcing a homeless man to jump in to save a life.
Meet John Byrne, The Homeless Man Ready To Die Saving His Pet
John Byrne has beeen living on the streets of Dublin since the age of 14. He is one of approximately 5,000 homeless people in Ireland at the moment, and for John, home isn’t measured in square feet or granite countertops. Instead home takes the shape of a small brown rabbit and a Jack Russell Terrier who show him what it means to be a family.
One July morning, John was begging on the O’Connell Bridge when 18-year-old Gary Kearney took him by surprise. Kearney grabbed Barney right out of John’s arms and hurled him over the bridge and into the river below.
Breathless and in shock, John looked over the side of the bridge with dread. He was expecting the worst but was relieved to see that Barney had not died on impact. The bunny was swimming in circles in the water below. Without hesitation, John joined him in the River Liffey.
Around 200 people watched as John struggled to save Barney from being swept away.
“I wasn’t going to leave him there,” John said. “I had to get him, I had to jump in to get him. Barney died in my arms but I got him under the bridge and gave him the kiss of life.”
Last month, Gary Kearney was sentenced to four months detention after pleading guilty at Dublin District Court to animal cruelty and torture.
John describes the sentence as “Justice. I wasn’t sure he wasn’t going to be handed a prison sentence but it shows that the judge does not tolerate cruelty to animals. I am absolutely delighted by the decision. Barney could have died that day.”