Image: Punxsutawney Phil
Jason Cohn  /  Reuters
Punxsutawney Phil is held up to the crowd after making his famous Groundhog Day weather prognostication in Punxsutawney, Pa., on Feb. 2, 2008.
updated 1/27/2010 1:03:48 PM ET 2010-01-27T18:03:48

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 instead.

But William Deeley, president of the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, countered that 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, he noted.

Deeley claimed that PETA is just looking for publicity and isn't really interested in Phil.

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