BRASSTOWN, N.C., Dec. 18 (UPI) -- A North Carolina judge ruled a Brasstown store's 22nd annual New Year's Possum Drop can go forward with lowering a live animal.
Superior Court Judge James Roberson rejected a request from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to obtain a preliminary injunction to stop Clay's Corner from lowering a live opossum for its 22nd annual Clay's Corner Possum Drop Dec. 31.
PETA's previous litigation against the store and its event caused a fake 'possum to be used for last year's event, but organizers said they are planning to lower a live opossum for this year's New Year's Eve celebration.
The state's General Assembly passed a law earlier this year to suspend enforcement of state wildlife rules as they apply to opossums for a few days before and after New Year's Eve. PETA contends the law is unconstitutional because it provides special treatment for the Possum Drop event and makes it unclear how the laws apply to people to return injured wildlife to their natural habitats.
Robertson wrote in his Dec. 14 order that PETA and other plaintiffs "have not shown the likelihood of success on the merits of the claims asserted in" their lawsuit. The ruling does not affect the ability of PETA to continue pursuing the lawsuit.
"North Carolina's most recent effort to legalize cruelty to opossums for a tawdry New Year's Eve event is as flawed as last year's opossum statute, which the North Carolina Superior Court found to be likely unconstitutional," Jeff Kerr, general counsel to PETA, said in a statement. "While PETA was denied a preliminary injunction ... we will take this case forward because we are determined to end an event that harms and harasses wildlife."
Clay's Corner owner Clay Logan said the opossum will not be harmed during this year's event.
"We do not harm that 'possum," Logan told the Citizen-Times newspaper. "I take care of that 'possum better than I do my wife, and I'm real, real good to her."
Logan said live opossums used in previous events were released back into the wild after the holiday.
"We honor the possum," he said last year. "We don't shorten their lives -- we prolong his life. They're going to get run over anyway."