PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa., Jan. 27 (UPI) -- A prominent U.S. animal rights group sent a letter to the handlers of Pennsylvania's famous groundhog, imploring them to replace it with an animatronic.
Gemma Vaughan, an Animals in Entertainment Specialist with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote in the letter to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club saying keeping Punxsutawney Phil on display year-round is a "cruel" way to treat the animal, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Wednesday.
"Make the compassionate decision to use an animatronic Phil and retire the live groundhogs who are used for Groundhog Day activities to a sanctuary," Vaughan wrote. "Tradition is no excuse for cruelty."
Bill Deeley, the president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, called the request "crazy."
"Phil is probably treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania," Deeley said. "He's got air conditioning in the summer, his pen is heated in winter ... He has everything but a TV in there. What more do you want?"