Brasstown Possum Drop (Courtesy: Asheville Citizen Times)
John Boyle, Asheville Citizen-Times
The Animal Rights group PETA is claiming victory in the latest round in the legal wranglings over whether a Brasstown convenience store can use a live opossum in its New Year's Eve "Possum Drop" festivities.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued a statement Friday stating that Wake County Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour ruled in their favor. PETA said the judge found the license the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission issued last year to allow the use of a live, wild opossum was improperly issued.
"This means that the opossum used at this year's event never should have been exposed to the terrifying crowds and noise of the cruel event," Jeff Kerr, general counsel to PETA, said. "Photos and video footage from this event show a frightened opossum unable to retreat from view and suffering from a visible eye injury, contusions to the nose, swelling of the face, and the first signs of dermal septic necrosis, a stress-induced illness that is fatal if not treated.
But Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for the N.C. Attorney General's office, which represents the commission, said via email that no order was issued.
"The judge heard arguments in the case (Friday) but hasn't issued an order yet," Talley said. "I'll be glad to share an order with you once we have it. I'd expect that will be sometime next week or week after."
The highlight of the 'Possum Drop festivities comes when the marsupial, contained in a glass box, is slowly lowered to ring in the New Year, a la the Times Square crystal ball in New York.
In December, the same judge ruled against PETA's bid to block the annual Possum Drop. Last year, the General Assembly passed a law allowing licensed sportsmen to hold animals for display at "an annual, seasonal, or cultural event."
The event is held at Clay's Corner, a store owned by Clay Logan. Late last year Logan said he considers the New Year's Eve celebration a fun, family-oriented event that is not harmful to the opossum. He said he's met the PETA folks "more than half way, but they don't recognize it."
"We don't bring the 'possum in till after we shoot the musket, and we moved the fireworks half a mile up the road," Logan said in December. "And with the crowd, we've asked them to giggle, not laugh. I don't know what else I can do."
Clay's Corner is in Brasstown, a small town in Clay County.
Logan could not be reached for comment Friday.
Kerr maintained that Friday's court actions "dissolved a previous ruling that allowed the New Year's Eve opossum exhibition based on evidence submitted by the WRC - which the WRC has now admitted was 'mistaken.' " The mistake came to light during depositions of commission representatives, he said, and showed the commission made incorrect statements at the previous hearing.
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