It was a musical symphony of animal noises outside St Francis Church in Lima, Peru where parrots, dogs, rabbits and hamsters gathered with their owners in tow for the annual blessing of the animals on 4 October. Many of the pets wore colourful bows or flouncy dresses for the special event.

Nestled in his owners arms, Andrei Balta's rabbit wore a whimsical princess costume. "We want to bless the pets, my rabbit especially. We're big believers in the St Francis church and also in this ceremony that occurs every year," said Balta.

Their patience soon paid off as Father Roberto Carpio held an open-air Mass and sprinkled holy water on the crew. "Today because it's Sunday, is a beautiful day to bless the little animals in the sense that they bring joy to human beings because they're pets," he said.

Proud dog owner Lisette Javer said she would always remember this day as a special one in her dog's life. "I want to say that today is her birthday and I'm very happy for her because today she was baptised," she said.

Saint Francis was born in Italy in 1182 and was known for his love of nature. He founded the Catholic order of the Franciscans. Saint Francis believed that household pets and livestock also needed to receive the blessings of God and he became the patron saint of ecologists and animals.