PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is coming down on Kennesaw State and has asked the University to stop using its live owl, named Sturgis, as a mascot.

Sturgis, which has been in use since late last year according to the KSU website, is named for KSU’s very first president, Horace Sturgis.

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According to an alert on PETA’s website, “Despite receiving information from PETA about the cruelty inherent in using live animals as mascots at sporting events, Kennesaw State University continues to force a live owl named Sturgis to appear at noisy, crowded news conferences, basketball games, and other events.”

The alert asks that it’s visitors urge the school to replace the live owl with a mascot in a costume.

Kennesaw State officials say they are committed to Sturgis’ safety and well-being. They will have a professional trainer and bird handler who works with the animal every day.

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In response, PETA says in their alert that “There is no way for the university to guarantee Sturgis’ safety at these events. Just last year, a bald eagle who was forced to “entertain” the crowd at an Oral Roberts University rally slammed into a window and fell to the floor. In a similar incident, a condor broke loose from her handler at a professional hockey game and slipped and struggled on the ice, crashing into a clear acrylic barrier before hurrying backstage as quickly as she could. Intelligent, sensitive birds simply do not belong at sporting events.”

PETA includes a form letter for users to send to Kennesaw State that reads:

“I was saddened to learn that Kennesaw State University has begun using Sturgis, a live owl, as its mascot at games and school functions. An arena or stadium filled with screaming sports fans, bright lights, and loud noises is terrifying and distressing for animals. Birds are often disoriented by their surroundings in these hectic environments and can sustain injuries or possibly even die. Last year, a bald eagle who was forced to “entertain” the crowd at an Oral Roberts University rally slammed into a window and fell to the floor. In 2011, an eagle at an Auburn University football game crashed into the window of a luxury box during a pre-game flight around the stadium, and that same year, an owl died after being hit by a ball and then kicked during a professional soccer game. There is no place in athletic competitions or at any university event for compromising the well-being of an animal.

Please implement a compassionate policy prohibiting the use of live animals at all future sporting events.”

The discussion of the mascot did not come up during our interview with the new head football coach, Brian Bohannon, on Friday, February 21st, 2014. However you can see that interview in it’s entirety here:

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“It is not, and never was, our intent to use Sturgis solely for entertainment purposes,” said Vaughn Williams, KSU’s athletic director, in a statement. “… KSU will use Sturgis’ presence and association as a source of education and motivation for the children and adults who will delight in seeing him.”