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After the death of Uga VII, PETA asks University of Georgia to stop using bulldog mascots

November 24, 2009 |  6:12 pm

Uga The death last week of Uga VII, the bulldog mascot for the University of Georgia's football team, hit a number of fans like a ton of bricks. (Perhaps fittingly, Uga VII himself rather resembled a ton of bricks, tipping the scales at 56 pounds.) Uga VII, like his father Uga VI, apparently died as a result of a heart condition.

Over the weekend, Uga VII was memorialized at a ceremony held at the university's football facility, Sanford Stadium, before being laid to rest along with his six Uga predecessors at a mausoleum for deceased team mascots near the stadium's entrance.

"Everyone has been so kind. Everybody loves that dog," Swann Seiler, the daughter of Frank "Sonny" Seiler, who has owned each of the seven Ugas, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Reportedly, the elder Seiler is on the lookout for the next bulldog in the long line of Ugas. 

But if PETA has anything to say about it, there won't be one. Today, the animal-rights group's animals in entertainment specialist, Desiree Acholla, fired off a letter to University of Georgia athletic director Damon Evans, asking him to "honor Uga VII by choosing an animatronic or solely use a costumed mascot to represent the Georgia Bulldogs in the future."

PETA's rationale for this request stems from the health problems it argues are a byproduct of breeding purebred dogs -- health problems which, by many accounts, are more severe in bulldogs than in most other breeds.  

It's not just animal-rights activists who fret about the health of bulldogs; in 2004, prominent British veterinarian Emma Milne of BBC One's "Vets in Practice" program advocated a ban on breeding bulldogs as we know them. Speaking to the BBC's "Real Story," Milne referred to the dogs as "mutated freaks" that have trouble breathing, giving birth and running as a result of breeding practices that favored form over function. 

Uga's fans Last year, the BBC responded to the controversial documentary "Pedigree Dogs Exposed," which showed purebred dogs with a variety of severe health problems, by dropping its planned coverage of Britain's most prestigious dog show, Crufts.
According to the BBC, it came to the decision to drop Crufts when the Kennel Club, the organization behind the show, refused to keep certain breeds considered at high risk for health problems out of the competition. Among those breeds was the bulldog, as well as the basset hound, German shepherd, Pekingese, Chinese shar-pei and Cavalier King Charles spaniel.

Earlier this year, the Kennel Club announced its decision to amend the breed standards -- documents specific to each breed that detail what an ideal specimen should look and act like -- for a number of the breeds it recognized, including, notably, the bulldog.

If you take PETA's view of the situation, some congenital health problems in bulldogs could be exacerbated by the excitement and stress of being a college-football mascot. "Like other dogs, bulldogs love to run and play, but their compromised respiratory system causes these playful animals to struggle for breath," Acholla's letter continues. "Poor ventilation and hot or humid weather can be deadly for a purebred bulldog.  This is made even more difficult for a bulldog who must travel frequently."

So far, no response to PETA's request has been forthcoming from the University of Georgia. And while we seriously doubt the university will side with Ingrid Newkirk & Co. on this one, we have to admit that we'd be pretty interested in seeing an animatronic bulldog; the sight might even be enough to induce us to watch college football.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Top photo: A wreath sits atop Uga VII's doghouse before the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Kentucky Wildcats at Sanford Stadium on Nov. 21.  Credit: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

Bottom photo: Three fans of the Georgia Bulldogs hold up a sign in honor of Uga VII before the game.  Credit: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

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