State News

PETA wants mountain town's New Year's Eve possum drop halted

Posted September 25, 2012

— A national animal rights group is waging a legal fight to stop a small North Carolina mountain town's tradition of lowering a caged possum on New Year's Eve.

Senior Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison refused Tuesday to dismiss a legal challenge filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals against the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. The state agency issues a permit for the annual Possum Drop held in Brasstown, located near the state's western tip.

PETA's lawyers contend the possum drop is illegal and cruel.

Despite the name, no possum is dropped at the event, which attracts thousands to the tiny hamlet. Rather, the captive critter is suspended in a see-through box covered with holiday tinsel and gently lowered to the ground at midnight.

"This possum that we use is taken care of," Clay Logan, who started the event 20 years ago and catches each animal used, told CBS News last year.

"Matter of fact, there are probably possums up around my house holding little signs saying, 'Use me next year,'" Logan said.

Possum drop State says permit for possum drop properly issued

PETA attorney Martina Bernstein said possums are timid animals and can actually die from the stress. She likened the New Year's Eve event to torture for the animal.

"It is something you wouldn't do to your own dog or cat – have them hoisted up on a Plexiglas contraption for several hours with fireworks going off you know swinging in in the cold air," Bernstein said.

She argued that the state permit for the event was improperly issued because North Carolina law doesn't allow wild animals to be kept captive unless it's for rehabilitation – and that requires a captive animal permit.

"There are very strict rules for that. It's not a free-for-all," she said. "But apparently the agency believes, if you don't fit into these permits, we're just going to make up something."

Norman Young, the assistant attorney general representing the Wildlife Resources Commission, said the permit was legal. New Year's Eve falls during possum season in the state, so Logan's hunting license allows him to trap one for the drop, he said.

"(This is) an event that does not show any particular harm to the opossum and I might add doesn't meet the elements of the animal cruelty statute," Young said.

Morrison is expected to rule on the matter in a few weeks.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • debrwood Sep 26, 2012

    I think that seeing how the man's hunting permit covers the use of the opposum, that it should be legal. I am sure that the opposum is well taken care of and given proper food and water. It is probably one of the most pampered opposums in the world.

  • dontstopnow Sep 26, 2012

    I posted two comments for this story yesterday and I see WRAL printed neither.... hummmmm. Guess they are members of PETA. :)

  • Lightfoot3 Sep 26, 2012

    ""Matter of fact, there are probably possums up around my house holding little signs saying, 'Use me next year,'" Logan said." - article

    That's funny!

    “Can't believe I'm saying this, but PETA kind of has a point.” - gopack07

    I agree. I wouldn’t want that done to my cat. I would imagine that the possum is probably very scared and freaked out.

  • gopack07 Sep 26, 2012

    Can't believe I'm saying this, but PETA kind of has a point. We wouldn't do this to our dogs or cats so why do it to any animal at all? On the other hand, I absolutely despise PETA.

  • mep Sep 25, 2012

    DROP UM!

  • elizadushkufan85 Sep 25, 2012

    Very Cruel. They wouldn't put a human in a box and lower them down on New Years Eve, so why would they put an animal in a box and lower them down? Some people are NUTS!!

  • davidgnews Sep 25, 2012

    Western part of the state? They should be investigating snake handlers instead.

  • bluecanary Sep 25, 2012

    I would take PETA more seriously if they were not responsible for the deaths of so many animals every year.

  • kenloe3981 Sep 25, 2012

    PETA....Shoiuld really worry about the real problems in the world.....A possom is nothing more than a big rat. They do nothing but eat dead things and tear up garbage. While I am not wanting anyone to be mean to them but I really dont see any harm in it.

  • shutterbug Sep 25, 2012

    Maybe we need to have a PETA drop instead.