A Wake County judge has ordered a halt to the annual Opossum Drop in the mountain community of Brasstown, a victory for animal rights groups who called lowering the marsupial in a tinsel-covered box on New Year’s Eve is inhumane.
Senior Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison ruled Tuesday that Brasstown store owner Clay Logan did not qualify for a permit to hold animals captive, and that the state Wildlife Resources Commission had no authority to issue a special permit.
“WRC should therefore have instructed Logan to immediately release the opossum into the wild where the opossum had been captured, or kill it,” Morrison wrote in his order.
Known as the possum capital of the South, Brasstown has rung in the new year by suspending an opossum above a stage and dropping it at the stroke of midnight while fireworks boom in the background.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a lawsuit in December seeking a temporary restraining order, which was denied. Their petition moved to the Office of Administrative Hearings, where the parties agreed to seek summary judgment. Further appeals are likely.
PETA said the Opossum Drop obviously subjects the shy nocturnal animal to cruelty, but argued in its case that the state denies the public its right to enjoy wildlife by issuing permits for what amount to temporary zoos.
On its Web site, Clay’s Corner issues this note:
“The opossum is not actually ‘dropped,’ it is lowered with great care. We treat our little friend with respect, hold him in awe, and do not inflict any injury or traumatize God's creature of the night.”
Reached Tuesday, Logan said he’ll wait to see if the state appeals the decision.
“We’ll just abide by what the law says,” he said. “We’ll have the Opossum Drop. I’m just not sure what we’ll have ...”