PETA wants groundhogs retired
PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa., Jan. 28 (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?"
'Canine' woman denies killing dog
SAN ANTONIO, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- A Texas woman who calls herself a werewolf said a dog depicted in images posted to the Internet was already dead when she severed its head.
Wolfie Blackheart, 18, born Sarah Rodriguez, said police searched her San Antonio home and she was bombarded with threats and smears by Internet, phone and text messages after she admitted to being behind the decapitation of a dog missing since Jan. 5, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
However, Blackheart said she did not kill the dog, which belonged to a neighbor, but was asked to decapitate the animal and boil its skull after friends found it dead from being hit by a car in the road.
"I would never kill a canine," said Blackheart, who wears a tail. "I am a canine."
Lisa Norwood, a spokeswoman for Animal Care Services, said the investigation is ongoing. She said no charges will be brought if it is determined that the dog was indeed dead at the time of its decapitation.
"You can prove that a number of ways forensically," Norwood said.
Man denies urinating on war memorial
LEEDS, England, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- A man accused of urinating on a memorial to the British war dead told the church employee who interrupted him "they are all dead anyway," a prosecutor says.
Ian Marshall, 49, has admitted urinating in public, The Daily Mail reports. At a court hearing Tuesday, he denied actually urinating on the war memorial in Leeds or urinating on wreaths that had been placed there for Remembrance Sunday.
Lisa Carlton, the prosecutor, said the church verger who saw him gives a different story.
"He had climbed steps leading to the memorial and holding on to railings urinated on the memorial through to where the wreaths were clearly on display," she said. "That is what is at dispute."
Carlton said Marshall used foul language to the verger, who reminded him of a Sheffield incident where a student got into trouble for urinating on a war memorial after a pub crawl.
"F--- off, they are all dead anyway. There is no one under there," she said Marshall responded.
Abbi Whelan, Marshall's lawyer, said he denied making those comments.
The case was adjourned until April 6, when witnesses will appear in Leeds Magistrates Court.
Mom nurses baby during guilty plea
MILWAUKEE, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- A Wisconsin judge said he was surprised but not fazed when a mother accused of writing a bad check began nursing her baby while giving her guilty plea.
Waukesha County Reserve Judge Neal Nettesheim said Kiyo Clemons, 35, was holding her baby in court and the child began to grow restless, "interfering slightly with the proceedings" as he started the case, Milwaukee's WTMJ-TV reported.
Nettesheim said he and his courtroom workers were surprised when Clemons did not hesitate to lower her baby to her breast and begin nursing.
"The woman simply brought the child down to the area of her breast and started nursing the child. The child quieted down," the judge said.
"The breast-feeding was done very discretely," he said, noting the woman was careful not to bare her breast in the courtroom.
Nettesheim said he considered delaying the case for a few minutes to allow the woman to finish but decided instead to press forward.
"I proceeded to conduct the proceeding and take the woman's guilty plea, and concluded the case," he said.