Stock Photo: Asheville Citizen-Times
Jon Ostendorff, Asheville Citizen-Times
BRASSTOWN, N.C.- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has filed a pre-emptive lawsuit against North Carolina's wildlife agency to stop the famous New Year's Eve 'Possum Drop in Clay County.
It is the second lawsuit in two years.
Clay's Corner owner Clay Logan has organized the annual event for about 20 years. It is an alcohol-free celebration and has included everything from bluegrass music to the lowering of a live opossum locked in a see-through box draped in tinsel in parody of the ball drop in Times Square.
The opossum is released afterward.
PETA won its first legal challenge to the event in February when the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission dismissed its appeal of an earlier court ruling that found the agency did not have the authority to issue Logan a permit to possess an opossum.
It is unclear whether Logan planned to host the event at his country store this year. Last year he used a stuffed opossum because of the legal challenge.
PETA's new lawsuit is aimed at preventing the wildlife agency from issuing a permit this year, the group said in a statement.
The group said the event amounts to "suspending a terrified wild opossum above a stage in a Plexiglas box and subjecting him or her to the explosive sounds of fireworks and musket fire as well as the blinding glare of floodlights."
"Simply, the (wildlife commission) is legally prohibited from issuing a permit or license to include a live opossum in a 'drop' in direct violation of North Carolina law," said general counsel to PETA Jeffrey S. Kerr. "There are other ways to celebrate without cruelty to animals, and according to experts, these highly sensitive animals suffer - and even die - after their release because of trauma."
PETA submitted its 156-page petition - complete with sworn testimony from numerous experts who have collectively cared for more than 14,000 opossums - to wildlife commission on Sept. 10.
PETA asked for its assurance that the agency would refuse to issue a permit or license for using a live opossum. The commission refused to consider the petition, the group said.
Logan could not be reached Friday.
The wildlife agency did not immediately return a message.
Legislation signed into law earlier this year allows a live opossum drop to continue on New Year's Eve.