Homeless Man Gives ‘Kiss of Life’ to Bunny Thrown Off Bridge

This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally posted on January 15, 2013. Enjoy!

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.”

John warms his beloved rabbit while talking to emergency personnel. Photo courtesy Sebastian Dooris

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.”

Brought to you by The Great Animal Rescue Chase

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Karen Boyd
K B2 years ago

True love.

Karen S.
Karen S3 years ago

Heartwarming story! Please visit:

Elisa F.
Elisa F4 years ago

A nice ending to what could have been tragic. Thanks for sharing.

Jenna Summers
Jennifer B4 years ago

Wonderful that John saved his rabbits life. The kid that did this deserves a harsh penalty but suggesting he burn is way too harsh. It scares me sometimes what kind of "justice" some people would dish out. Fortunately these people are usually not in a position of power.

Lika S.
Lika P4 years ago

I have a 9 year old cat named Barney. He and my little cat Missy are my babies. My human baby is 13 and taller than me.

Past Member
Past Member 4 years ago

Very sweet story....

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Sarah clevenger
Sarah clevenger4 years ago

Good man. People judge homeless people way too often,without even knowing the situation.

Ugo Werneck Vianna


leigh crosby
Leigh Colebrook4 years ago

I agree with all below /above. That Gary Kearney is a worthless piece of scum, and I am so glad John could save his bunny. I was crying watching this, at the love he has for his pets. I too wish someone would offer him a job and a home, on the streets since 14!! A long time! Britain does not do enough to help our homeless people, AT ALL!