ATHENS, Ga. -- An animal rights organization has asked the University of Georgia to quit using a live bulldog as the schools athletic mascot.
Instead, PETA suggests, the Bulldogs could use a robot dog or costumed mascot, like Hairy Dawg or inflatable Spike, to represent the universitys football and other sports teams.
PETA, formerly known as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, says using live bulldogs perpetuates dog health problems like the heart ailment that apparently killed Uga VII last week at the age of 4.
PETAs Nov. 20 letter to UGA Athletic Director Damon Evans is the second one the group has addressed to UGA officials asking them to stop using live bulldogs.
Last year, when Uga VI died also of heart problems PETA wrote athletic officials to ask that the next Uga come from an animal shelter or rescue, and that he be neutered.
Bulldogs are prone to breathing difficulties, hip dysplasia heart disorders and other chronic health problems, noted Desiree Acholla, PETAs animals in entertainment specialist.
Bulldogs, like other dogs, like to run and play, but the very act of playing can be dangerous for the breed because the dogs struggle to breathe, Acholla said in last weeks letter to Evans.
The Uga line of English bulldogs are family pets for Sonny and Cecilia Seiler of Savannah, who have shared the dogs with the Bulldog Nation since 1956.
The family said last week it would find a substitute Uga for this weekends Georgia Tech football game, and for a possible bowl game, then pick a new bulldog to carry on the tradition sometime next year.
Bulldogs are prone to breathing and heart problems because of the mashed-in faces theyve been bred to have, Acholla said in the letter. They also suffer from high rates of eye problems, skin problems and hip dysplasia because of the way theyve been bred to look with jowly faces, big heads, stubby legs and thick bodies.
Because of their peculiar body shape, bulldogs are bred by artificial insemination, and their births are by Caesarian section, she said.
Evans did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
UGA did respond to PETA, however an e-mail from David Muia, a special assistant to UGA Athletic Director Damon Evans.
You make good points that deserve our consideration, wrote Muia, but he promised no specific actions other than sharing the letter with the Seilers and talking it over with Evans and other athletic officials.
Swann Seiler, daughter of Sonny and Cecilia, said the family would have no comment on PETAs letter.
PETA opposes all dog breeding, which the organization says contributes to pet overpopulation as well as chronic health problems for dogs.
We just dont want to see this cycle of congenital health defects and other hereditary problems associated with inbreeding simply to create a brand for the university, Acholla said. If Ugas are being created for a specific image, this can only be done through generations of inbreeding.