NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 28, 2010

PETA proposes robotic groundhog for Pa. festival


PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (AP) — An animal rights group wants organizers of Pennsylvania's Groundhog Day festival to replace Punxsutawney Phil with a robotic stand-in.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says it's unfair to keep the animal in captivity and subject him to the huge crowds and bright lights that accompany tens of thousands of revelers each Feb. 2 in Punxsutawney, a tiny borough about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. PETA is suggesting the use of an animatronic model.

But William Deeley, president of the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, says the animal is "being treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania." The groundhog is kept in a climate-controlled environment and is inspected annually by the state Department of Agriculture.

Deeley says PETA isn't interested in Phil from Feb. 2 on, and is looking for publicity.