Pet rabbit stolen by animal rights protester

Two young pet owners were left "heartbroken" when their rabbit was stolen by an animal rights protester.

Nine-year-old Barney was snatched last week and replaced with a handwritten note saying rabbits should be out "socialising".

Oliver Bailey, 38, and his children Kiera, 13, and Harry, 10, woke on Friday morning to discover that he was missing from his hutch in the garden of their home in Darwen, Lancashire.

All that remained was a note, which read: "This is animal cruelty. Rabbits should not be left in hutches, they should be out in the wild and socialising."

Mr Bailey told the Lancashire Telegraph that he bought the pet for his children after Kiera cut her eye in reception class.

He said: "My children are heartbroken. They are absolutely horrified. They love the rabbit and play with him every day. He is taken to the vets regularly and gets the best possible treatment.

"We are heartbroken to be accused of animal cruelty to a pet rabbit we love dearly.

"My kids are asking me 'Why would someone do this to us when we love him so much?'."

He said he is concerned that the rabbit may have been let out into the woods where it could die.

A spokesman for Lancashire Police confirmed they had received a report of a stolen rabbit.

Barney is small and white with grey patches. Police can be contacted on 0845 1253545.