Published Tuesday, 04 December 2012
The incident happened in 2011. (© UTV)
John Byrne had been begging on O'Connell Bridge when his beloved pet was snatched away from him and tossed into the water in July 2011.
The 37-year-old, who has been living on the streets for 23 years, dived in after Barney before firefighters rescued them both.
Gary Kearney, originally of Crumlin, pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to animal cruelty and torture on Tuesday.
The 20-year-old also admitted breach of the peace during the incident, which Judge Bryan Smyth described as a serious matter.
Speaking outside the court, Mr Byrne said he was shocked to see the rabbit swimming around in circles, looking up at him.
"I wasn't going to leave him there," he said. "I had to get him, I had to jump in to get him.
"Barney died in my arms. I got him under the bridge and gave him the kiss of life."
After the incident, Mr Byrne received a Compassionate Citizen Award for going above and beyond the call of duty to help an animal in need, and thousands of people who were touched by his story gave donations and food.
He now has three dogs, and said the sentence will send out a clear message to anyone who would abuse animals.