Fight over NC possum drop event back in court

  • Posted: Monday, December 23, 2013 9:29 a.m.
    UPDATED: Monday, December 23, 2013 5:06 p.m.

RALEIGH (AP) — A North Carolina judge on Monday decided he won’t second-guess state wildlife regulators, who decided to clear a mountain town’s New Year’s Eve celebration that includes the lowering of a captured possum at midnight.

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour decided against a bid by the animal-welfare organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to block the annual Possum Drop in Brasstown next week. The event held annually for two decades involves enclosing a live possum in a clear plastic box and lowering it gently to the ground much the way New York City marks the holiday with the descent of a mirrored ball.

A PETA lawyer argued the lights, noise and crowd of people can wreck a possum’s nerves and health even though it is later released.

“In her perception, she will be surrounded by predators,” PETA lawyer Martina Bernstein said. “They will be all around her. She will smell them, she will still be able to hear them, she will know that they’re there. And this is not a condition that a wild possum by nature can withstand without significant harm.”

Attorneys for the state Wildlife Resources Commission, which issued a permit Friday allowing the organizer to capture the animal, argued that it couldn’t deny a permit based on the possibility that the organizer won’t live up to the required conditions, WRAL reported. PETA had argued the organizer can’t meet some of the permit’s conditions, including that the captivity must be in the interests of the humane treatment of the animal.

The General Assembly this year passed a law allowing licensed sportsmen to hold animals for display if it is for “an annual, seasonal, or cultural event.”

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