Raleigh, N.C. — Looks like Brasstown's possums have a friend in Hollywood.
Longtime "The Price is Right" host Bob Barker has sent a letter to Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca, asking him not to move forward with House Bill 66, which would allow the town's annual New Year's Eve "Possum Drop" to continue using a live possum.
The event was started by Clay's Corner proprietor Clay Logan about 20 years ago. It involves lowering a live possum in a Plexiglas box and then releasing the animal.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed suit against the state last year, arguing that the Wildlife Resources Commission didn't have the power under state law to issue a special captivity permit for such an event.
A proposal to give the commission that authority moved quickly through the House this week, encountering little debate along the way. Its sponsor, Rep. Roger West, R-Cherokee, wouldn't comment on it to reporters.
It's now in the Senate, where Apodaca filed the companion bill, Senate Bill 60, the "Opossum Right-to-Work Act."
In Barker's letter, sent out by PETA, the lifelong Republican calls the bill an abuse of power.
"While I am sure that this bill was introduced as a laugh, a moment's reflection will show that it makes a mockery of the legislative process and epitomizes big-government interference by seeking to significantly amend a well-established state law and create a legal loophole to satisfy the petty interests of one man made unhappy by a judge's rightful ruling," writes Barker.
"For this cruel event, a wild opossum is trapped using dogs, held in unnatural surroundings for days or weeks, then placed in a Plexiglas box on New Year's Eve, hoisted above a stage and subjected to a terrifying barrage of loud music, fireworks and cannon and musket fire," the letter continues. "Since the original captivity statute allows licenses to be issued for activities only in 'the interests of humane treatment of wild animals,' such as wildlife rehabilitation, West's attempt to carve out a loophole for this event is absurd, since no rational person could conclude that it is even remotely humane."
Barker also warns that the loophole carved out by the legislation could endanger more than just possums.
"It seeks essentially to strip the state's wild animals of crucial protections and make them vulnerable to a wide array of cruel practices, including being held indefinitely in captivity, being put on display to generate profit or publicity for their captors and being exploited for any 'other purpose.' The bill even goes so far as to seek to exempt many citizens from the state's anti-cruelty law," he writes.
In conclusion, Barker urges Apodaca to let the bill die.
"North Carolina's citizens know that this type of legislation rightfully belongs to a bygone era, and they don't want to see the legislature move the state backwards," he writes. "I hope that clear heads will prevail so that this fine state can be proud of its legislative history."
No word yet on a response from Apodaca or West, who, Barker notes, is a sponsor of the Possum Drop event.