People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has asked Kennesaw State University to stop using Sturgis, its live owl mascot, because the group believes the noise from fans at events is “terrifying” to animals.
The college began using the live mascot -- Sturgis, a Eurasian eagle owl named for its first president, Horace Sturgis -- last fall, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The animal rights group says on its website: “An arena filled with bright lights, screaming fans, flashing cameras, and loud noises is terrifying and distressing for animals."
The website has a form letter supporters can customize and email to Kennesaw State’s athletic department. It says, “Please tell Kennesaw State University's director of athletics, Vaughn Williams, that using live animals as mascots is unacceptable and urge school officials to implement a policy banning the use of live animals at sporting events.”
School officials say they are committed to Sturgis’ safety and well-being and have a professional trainer and bird handler who works with the animal every day, AJC.com says.
“It is not, and never was, our intent to use Sturgis solely for entertainment purposes,” Vaughn Williams, KSU’s athletic director, said in the newspaper story. “… 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.”
The bird’s owner and trainer, Daniel Walthers, suggested the idea of a live mascot to Kennesaw State a couple of years ago, says a story on the university website.
Walthers, whose experience training and raising and taking care of birds is extensive, is paid $1,000 per appearance with the bird. Proceeds from fan photos taken with Sturgis go to support various conservation groups in the area.