Mayor-Biting Groundhog Prompts Call for Animal’s Retirement

PETA Calls On Sun Prairie to Switch to Animal-Free Annual Celebrations

For Immediate Release:
February 3, 2015

Alexis Sadoti 202-483-7382

Sun Prairie, Wis.

In response to reports that a groundhog named Jimmy bit Mayor Jon Freund’s ear at the 67th annual Sun Prairie Groundhog Day celebration, PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—sent the town a letter today requesting that future events be groundhog-free.

As PETA points out in its letter, groundhogs are naturally shy, sensitive prey animals who react poorly when handled in front of raucous crowds, as evidenced by yesterday’s incident—a not uncommon occurrence during Groundhog Day events, which also pose a safety risk to the animals.

“While this groundhog’s weather prognostication was unclear, his actions read loud and clear—he had no desire to be handled in front of the noisy crowd and flashing lights,” says PETA Senior Director Colleen O’Brien. “PETA is calling on Sun Prairie to make future celebrations groundhog-free—for the safety of the animals and elected officials alike.”

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PETA’s letter to Ti Gauger, business improvement district manager for the Sun Prairie Business Improvement District, follows.

Dan Callies
Sun Prairie Business Improvement District   

Ti Gauger
Business Improvement District Manager
Sun Prairie Business Improvement District

Dear Mr. Callies and Ms. Gauger:

I’m writing on behalf of PETA and our more than 3 million members and supporters, including many across Wisconsin, in response to reports that a groundhog bit Mayor Jon Freund’s ear during this year’s Sun Prairie Groundhog Day event. Biting indicates immense stress and fear in groundhogs—the event was clearly no fun for the animal, and in fact, he likely bit the mayor in a desperate attempt to flee. We trust that you would never knowingly exhibit animals in a manner that would result in distress, and it’s with this faith that we hope you’ll consider the following information.

As you may know, groundhogs are shy, sensitive prey animals who view humans as life-threatening predators. Removed from their hiding place and held in front of a raucous crowd while being subjected to a barrage of loud noises and flashing lights, these animals endure immense stress and fear, triggering a fight-or-flight response. Not only does this type of situation pose risks to the animals and their handlers, with potentially tragic results, such handling could also trigger other stress-induced disorders, such as capture myopathy (a metabolic disorder that is brought on by extreme stress and causes debilitating weakness, immobility, and even death), in animals who aren’t outwardly harmed. Regardless of the intent of this wildlife exhibit, the message conveyed to the public is irresponsible and condones the inhumane mistreatment of animals.

Respectfully, we ask that you please cease using live wildlife at such events, for the sake of animals and humans alike. We would be happy to offer advice about animal-friendly alternatives. May we hear back from you soon?


Jodi Minion
Wildlife Biologist/Issues Manager
Cruelty Investigations Department

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