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KENNESAW -- PETA issued a call for action against Kennesaw State University. The animal rights group says the use of Sturgis, a Eurasian eagle owl, as its live mascot is "unacceptable".

"An arena filled with bright lights, screaming fans, flashing cameras, and loud noises is terrifying and distressing for animals," the PETA release said. "Intelligent, sensitive birds simply do not belong at sporting events."

PETA is asking people to send a letter to KSU's Athletic Director, Vaughn Williams, telling him to "stop exploiting birds for entertainment."

KSU responded to PETA's concerns in October, when Sturgis first took the field. Williams said, "I assure you that KSU, and all within the Department of Athletics as well as everyone else at KSU, are fully committed to Sturgis' safety and well-being." He refuted some of PETA's claims, saying Sturgis won'tfly free across a field at events. Williams also said the owl wasn't distressed: "Judging from Sturgis' demeanor, he felt comfortable and safe."

KSU says Sturgis serves a larger purpose than being a team mascot: "The spotlight on Sturgis will contribute to the public's appreciation for Sturgis and other owls, presenting opportunities both to raise awareness about owls and to raise funds to help replace owl and bird habitats that have been destroyed by human developments."