Judge declines to halt New Year's Eve Possum Drop
Posted December 23, 2013
RALEIGH, N.C. — The annual Possum Drop will go on as scheduled next week after a Superior Court judge on Monday declined to halt the New Year's Eve event in Brasstown.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has sued to stop the Clay County town's celebration, saying it's cruel to lower a possum in a plastic box at midnight.
PETA won a similar lawsuit a year ago when an administrative law judge ruled that the state Wildlife Resources Commission lacked the authority to issue a permit for the event. So, the General Assembly passed a law in March allowing licensed sportsmen to hold animals for display as long as they are returned to the wild after the event.
The Wildlife Resources Commission issued a permit Friday allowing Clay Logan, the organizer of the Possum Drop, to capture an animal for the event.
"Mr. Logan knows nothing about how to properly care for an opossum," PETA lawyer Martina Bernstein argued, noting the the lights, noise and crowd of people can harm the health of the nocturnal marsupial.
"This is not a condition that a wild opossum by nature can withstand," Bernstein said.
Assistant Attorney General Tamara Zmuda maintained that PETA was engaging in a "what-if game," saying the permit was issued according to the law and that the Wildlife Resources Commission cannot deny him a permit because something bad might happen to the possum.
Judge Allen Baddour said its sounded like PETA wanted to prohibit anyone from capturing an opossum under the law, but Bernstein the group favors captivity as long as it's in "the humane interests of the animal."
Baddour said next Tuesday night's Possum Drop might provide it with enough evidence to win its lawsuit, but he said he wouldn't block the event at such an early stage in the legal challenge.
Logan said he was thrilled with the ruling, noting the Possum Drop is celebrating its 20th year and continues to generate recognition for Brasstown.
There is a good chance, however, that people attending the Possum Drop might not actually see the featured animal this year.
One condition of the state permit requires that the possum be in a box the size of a coffin, replete with a den where the animal can hide if it gets scared. Violating the conditions of the permit could mean penalties for Logan.