FOUR-legged friends joined their owners at church for a special pet service.

About 10 dogs, cats, rabbits and even a ferret gathered inside Salwarpe Church, near Droitwich, for an animal-themed service of thanksgiving.

Led by the Rev Doug Chap-lin, of the Droitwich deanery, the service included a blessing of the animals along with special prayers, hymns and Psalms.

The congregation sang specially-selected hymns in-cluding The Butterfly Song and All Things Bright and Beautiful as their loyal pets sat quietly at their feet.

Sylvia Whittaker, who brought along her Cocker Spaniels Charlie and Alfie, said the animal service on the BBC1 programme The Vicar of Dibley was their inspiration for the unusual event which is now in its fourth year.

“The Vicar of Dibley may have inspired us,” she said. “Being a rural community you never know what might turn up.

“There’s so many things for children going on like clubs and football, we thought we could do something to att-ract children to church.

“The Lord doesn’t only bless us, he blesses all our animals – all creatures great and small.”

She added she was pleased with the turnout but would have liked to see more young people.

Anja Kristy, aged 10, gave a reading during the service.

The Witton Middle School pupil, who has seven pets including horses, terrapins, a dog and gerbils, said: “It’s normally very fun and it still is really. I like it because we get to thank our pets for everything they have done for us.” Last year two horses were blessed by the vicar outside the church.