University in Alabama denies PETA's request to retire mascot

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) — The University of North Alabama said the school will keep its lion mascot following a request by an animal rights group that the lion be transferred to a sanctuary.

“Our UNA community has enjoyed visiting our lions on campus, and our lions have a special place in our University traditions,” the school said in a statement reported by WHNT-TV Monday.

The university received the request from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals after the lion’s sister, Una, died in June. Una and her brother, Leo III, had lived in a campus habitat, where Una died, since 2003, officials said.

PETA sent another letter to the school Wednesday urging them to retire the lion.

Leo III's veterinarian, Matt Connolly, told the TimesDaily the familiarity of the lion’s environment “is paramount for him to get through this period of grief and continue to thrive.”

Lions have lived on the north Alabama campus as mascots since 1974.