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Large crowds, live music, and loud fireworks — it would have all the hallmarks of a typical New Year’s celebration, if not for the terrified opossum dangled in a cramped box over the cheering mob. This is Brasstown’s annual “Opossum Drop,” which adds a North Carolina “twist” on the prominent ball drop in Time Square. (See the video under “More about this issue” for a first-hand look.)

In recent years, event organizers have faced increased pressure from animal advocates, culminating in a lawsuit that prevented use of a live opossum in the 2013 event. Not to be deterred, State Representative Roger West (who also happens to sponsor the Opossum Drop) introduced a bill (HB 1131) “to exempt Clay County from state wildlife laws with respect to opossums between the dates of December 26 and January 2.” The bill became law in June 2014.

An implicit acknowledgement that the event violates the state’s existing wildlife laws, this law sets a poor precedent, prioritizing personal and commercial interests over animal welfare. Worse still, this “family friendly” event teaches young kids in attendance that it’s okay to masquerade animal abuse as entertainment.

This leaves us until the end of the year to let North Carolina’s General Assembly know we don’t tolerate this brand of animal cruelty. Fortunately, a trio of Senators that serve on the state’s Environment Committee also voted against this awful piece of legislation. Sign below to stand behind them and call on a law to repeal SL 2014-7.

Sign Here

Dear Senators Jeff Jackson, Trudy Wade, and Angela Bryant:

As members of the state’s Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources, I am writing to you to ask you continue standing up against animal cruelty in all of its manifestations. Specifically, this is a request to repeal SL 2014-7, which permits Brasstown, NC to continue using live opossums in their annual New Year’s celebration, the “Opossum Drop.” All but the event’s most ardent supporters recognize this façade for what it is — animal cruelty masquerading as entertainment.

The Opossum Drop is especially dangerous in its depictions of animal cruelty. Billed as a “family friendly” event, the celebration dresses up torture and animal abuse in a veneer of frivolity that belies the tragic underpinnings of the event. Each year, organizers capture and confine the typically reclusive marsupial in a cramped space where it is left to dangle above thousands of cheering onlookers as they celebrate with loud music, fireworks, and even musket fire.

Concerned citizens are dismissed as hippie killjoys out to ruin a town tradition in the name of political correctness. But “tradition” often serves as a last refuge for anachronistic practices that fall from social favor. Opossum Drop’s defenders are particularly disingenuous, ignoring the fact that the event was fabricated in 1990 as a desperate marketing ploy for the tiny Appalachian town. Since then, the event has quickly enshrined a public display of animal cruelty that now enjoys state protection.

Those same supporters also argue the captive opossum receives better treatment than a wild opossum and then is released back into the wild after the event. Yet reams of evidence and experts counter that the abducted mammal suffers potentially lethal trauma from the exposure and likely perishes shortly after release. Opossums are nocturnal creatures that prefer dark and secure areas — not a Plexiglas case left hanging above a rambunctious crowd during a fireworks show.

A replica could easily stand in for these unfortunate opossums and prevent any potential for abuse — not to mention the mounting cost of legal battles in courtrooms and the state legislature — while carrying on the tradition. In fact, true adherents should recall the very first Opossum Drop used a ceramic replica and only later introduced the live opossum.

As it stands now, Opossum Drop’s only legacy is one of animal cruelty, teaching future generations that such mistreatment is not only tolerated, but actually encouraged. The punchline of many jokes, it’s easy and even tempting to dismiss the troubles of this solitary marsupial. It gives me some hope to see a small enclave of reason and empathy operating in an environment dominated by personal and commercial interests.

Please, do what you can to convince your colleagues and your constituents that SL 2014-7 is a shameful law and needs repealed immediately.


(The Undersigned)

Petition Signatures

Jan 23, 2017 Joyce Filauri
Jan 23, 2017 Karen Krieger This is an incredibly poor way for "little boys & girls" to get their entertainment. It's cruel & intolerable. Would anyone there want their child to be treated that way? These people need to set a better example for their children. This is insane.
Jan 23, 2017 Anita Funk
Jan 23, 2017 Linda Tabb
Jan 23, 2017 Tracy Skalitzky There are other ways to celebrate the NY's holiday without abusing animals. Allowing this type of behavior sends a message that animal abuse is part of our culture and an accepted behavior. It is not an acceptable behavior and is not tolerated.
Jan 23, 2017 Elaine Herman Well, I see NC is keeping its reputation of being a "Hillbilly" state. Come on NC, it's time to shake loose & join the 21st century. Time to stop torturing animals for your misguided pleasure. Time to do the right thing.
Jan 23, 2017 June Jackson
Jan 23, 2017 Erin Kegel
Jan 23, 2017 Dawn Morris
Jan 23, 2017 Margaret Layland
Jan 23, 2017 MICHAEL ROSSI
Jan 23, 2017 Philip Patino
Jan 23, 2017 Patricia Wirth-Nugent
Jan 23, 2017 April Metheny Oh how CRUEL! This must stop & be stopped NOW! Anyone or any group of people that would celebrate such a thing are sick, sick people! This is cruelty at it's utmost & it must not go on! Can you just imagine the fear & terror these poor animals feel!?
Jan 23, 2017 Edward Frazier
Jan 23, 2017 Pieter Spies Disgraceful and infantile.
Jan 23, 2017 Jill Keogh I can remember signing this petition within the past few years. Why has nothing been done to stop this intense cruelty to an animal? Could one of the perpetrators of this hideous "entertainment" be caged and dangled above a crowd of screaming people?
Jan 23, 2017 Johanna Fagan
Jan 23, 2017 Melody Garrell
Jan 23, 2017 Denise Bennett
Jan 23, 2017 jeannie scott I don't understand how people get a kick out of being mean and cruel to animals...I have always said someone from another planet may land on earth some day and WE will be hunted and tortured...Totally disgusting!!!
Jan 23, 2017 Lee Anne Messina Decent people will always find the torture of any animal to be despicable. There will be a day when animal abuse is eradicated but we need to eradicate the morons who perpetrate it first. What a bunch of backwoods hillbillys.
Jan 23, 2017 Donna Hreha ugh....i cannot believe this disgusting ritual is still going on....well, here' s on more hippie killjoy that is out to ruin the town's tradition! stop this cruelty!
Jan 23, 2017 mary checketts WHAT WHAT ARE YOU ALL NUTS THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jan 23, 2017 (Name not displayed)
Jan 23, 2017 (Name not displayed) I have never heard of anything so heartless and cruel. Someone needs to drop them on their heads.
Jan 23, 2017 Lesley Currie
Jan 23, 2017 Shannon Patrick Please stop this horrible practice. I would never bring my family to such an event -- that is NOT family friendly at all!!!
Jan 23, 2017 David Daniel
Jan 23, 2017 Elma Rambo
Jan 23, 2017 Beth Tarilton I cannot tell you how abhorrent I find this practice. Can't people find something better to do? Surely.
Jan 23, 2017 Patricia Morres
Jan 23, 2017 (Name not displayed) That's disgusting.
Jan 23, 2017 Courtney Wirt
Jan 23, 2017 Patti Hoskins
Jan 23, 2017 Frances Smeath Repeal SL 2014-7 because it is RIGHT to do so. Animal cruelty has no place in human attitudes or actions. Can't we please just GROW UP???
Jan 23, 2017 D Sifuentes
Jan 23, 2017 Lucienne Filippi
Jan 23, 2017 (Name not displayed) What horrible, nasty people-end this cruelty now!!
Jan 23, 2017 Harry Dill
Jan 23, 2017 Beverley Rafayko What does this say about people who enjoy watching a terrified animal-- nothing nice
Jan 23, 2017 sara petty
Jan 23, 2017 Karen Warner
Jan 23, 2017 Barbara Eisenberg
Jan 23, 2017 (Name not displayed)
Jan 23, 2017 Debra Stewart
Jan 23, 2017 Simon Adams
Jan 23, 2017 Susan Holmes
Jan 23, 2017 (Name not displayed)
Jan 23, 2017 Amy A. It is truly amazing the number of ways humans can devise to torture others. I read this with my jaw dropped. Who in the hell would/could think of such a thing. Time to negate that exemption from NC state law.

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