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Is it possible that Spearfish High School will be the next school with a name controversy?

The University of North Dakota has been in and out, but mostly in controversy over its Fighting Sioux nickname over the recent years. The school adopted the slogan in 1930.

Now PETA, or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is eying Spearfish High School for a name change.

Sea Kitten High School, it doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

PETA sent Principal Steve Morford a letter Wednesday asking him to “launch an initiative to change the name of his school to Sea Kitten High and encourage everyone to refer to fish and other marine animals as sea kittens.”

"If Spearfish High School became Sea Kitten High and everyone in town starts calling fish 'sea kittens,' fewer of these gentle animals would be violently killed for food, painfully hooked for 'sport,' or cruelly confined to aquariums," said PETA's "Save the Sea Kittens" campaign coordinator Ashley Byrne. "Schools strive for achievements in academics and sports, so why not add compassion to the list?"

The suggestion is “tongue-in-cheek-which beats a hook in the mouth any day, PETA believes.”

Morford assured the community that the school would not change its name.

“It's nothing that we're taking seriously and it's not going to happen,” he said with a chuckle. “The Spearfish Spartans have a long standing tradition of being the Spearfish Spartans and they will stay that way.”

PETA staffers said they sent the letter to “Raise awareness how we can all be kinder to animals and the fact that nobody would ever hurt a dog or a cat, but there are more fish killed each year than all other all other animals combined,” said Pulin Modi, a supervisor for PETA2, the youth division of PETA. “It's a tongue-in-cheek kind of way to raise these issues �- it would be great if they did (change their names) because we know, young people especially are naturally and drawn to and are kind to animals.

“Fish feel fear and experience the pain just like all animals do that have a complex nervous system,” Modi said.

But PETA's suggested name change didn't sit well with some Spearfish residents

“That's crazy,” said Marc Casavan, owner of Mark's Barber Shop in Spearfish. “You don't do that in South Dakota, Wyoming or Montana. Those states are animal hungry - fish hungry.”

Casavan said that PETA's ploy will soon become “the butt of many jokes.”

“This isn't California,” he said flabbergasted. “You can get away with that there but not here.”

He said he looked forward to the paper coming out and added it would be the talk of the day at the shop.

Council member Eric Davis saw the letter and “immediately” sent a memo to Spearfish City Council members stating that they may want to look into changing the name of the community.

Spearfish resident Patty Tetrault had to ask her daughter, Sydney “Is this a joke?”

“After all we live in South Dakota,” she said.

A reader identified only as Dave wrote “Dear PETA,

Thank you for your letter. We too are troubled by the dysfunctional name of our local school and have taken your suggestion under advisement. After many hours of discussion, we have decided to change the name of our school. Introducing for the first time (thanks to you) Stabtrout High School, home of the Eyepoppers.”

“That's ridiculous,” said Raenae Raga a Spearfish High School graduate. “Unless we change the name of our town too, it doesn't really make sense.”

“I think God put animals on earth to provide for us,” said Paula Vostad Spearfish resident.

Many business and landmarks in the area are named after Spearfish.

The Historic D.C. Booth Sea Kitten Hatchery?

The Sea Kitten Chamber of Commerce?

Sea Kitten Canyon?

They don't have the same impact.

I can see it now, after a day of visiting Sturgis during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally a burly biker is going to come to Spearfish, sorry, Sea Kitten and buy a T-shirt as his was drenched in an afternoon rainstorm. “I love Sea Kittens” with a big pink “Sea Kitten” on the back.

But on the plus side for PETA the fight song for Spearfish is “Anchors Aweigh.” Will the environmental group want the school to stick with that or will it want a change to something less violent like “Under the Sea” the hit song from “The Little Mermaid”?

PETA even has a “create your own Sea Kitten” on its Web Site.

PETA also sent a similar letter to Whitefish High School in Whitefish, Mont., requesting the same name change, according to PETA's blog.

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