A WOMAN has told of her devastation after her pet rabbit was killed by a police dog chasing suspected criminals.

The dog was being used to help find suspected thieves who had run through gardens in Bell Farm Avenue, York, when it grabbed George the rabbit in one of the gardens.

It died as a result of its injuries and officers have “apologised profusely” for the incident.

Melissa Richardson, 20, who has had her pet since she was seven years old, said: “I went into the garden and the dog was in the bush with the rabbit.

“The officer was telling the dog to get off and come to him.

“When I got there the rabbit crawled out and I picked him up.

“I was crying all of last night. I’m kicking myself because I was going to put him in the hutch an hour before.”

North Yorkshire Police said officers apologised and consoled Melissa and her family immediately after the incident.

The head of the force’s dog section, Sergeant Simon Whitby, telephoned the family yesterday to apologise on behalf of the police.

He said afterwards: “We all feel terrible for the girl and her family and we have apologised profusely for the distress this has caused.

“The poor rabbit was completely out of sight when the dog handler checked the garden during the search for one of the suspects.

“The police dog simply acted on its natural instincts and grabbed hold of the rabbit.”

Miss Richardson, a support worker, lives with her grandmother Carol Richardson and has adopted three other rabbits.

She said although police had offered to buy her another rabbit she would turn down the offer as it would not replace her pet.

Officers had been investigating the theft of power tools from a car at 5.40pm on Tuesday in Middleham Avenue.

Police said a group of youths were spotted by the police and they ran along Bell Farm Avenue into the gardens.

A spokesman said the rabbit was still alive when the dog handler commanded the dog to release the animal although later it sadly died.

Two 18-year-old men were arrested following the pursuit. They have been released on conditional bail pending further inquiries.

A 19-year-old local man was arrested on Wednesday and yesterday remained in police custody.