That North Carolina mountain possum turned out to be a costly critter.
A judge ruled Tuesday that the state’s taxpayers must foot the bill – nearly $75,000 – for North Carolina’s appeal of a ruling against the annual New Year’s Eve “Possum Drop” in the Clay County community of Brasstown.
Superior Court Judge William Pittman awarded PETA $74,446 in attorneys’ fees, saying the N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission’s appeal of the November ruling was frivolous.
“This decision backs up PETA’s position that the Wildlife Resources Commission issued the permit for this crude and cruel activity illegally in the first place,” Jeffrey Kerr, PETA’s general counsel, said after the judge’s ruling.
For 17 years, a New Year’s Eve festival in Brasstown ended by lowering a live possum in a glass container. It was Brasstown’s answer to the annual Times Square ball drop in New York City.
But PETA went to court last year, claiming that the event constituted cruel treatment of the animal and that event organizers were frightening the possum for people’s amusement.
Judge Fred Morrison ruled the Wildlife Resources Commission did not have authority to grant a permit to event organizer Clay Logan to use the animal.
The Wildlife Resources Commission appealed the ruling, then dropped the appeal several days later. PETA followed with a motion to recover its attorneys’ fees.
In his ruling Tuesday, Pittman said the Wildlife Resources Commission “acted without substantial justification in pressing its claims.”
The state must reimburse PETA for its legal fees by Sept. 1.
The Possum Drop went on as scheduled last Dec. 31 in Brasstown, which is west of Asheville and about 225 miles west of Charlotte – but with a hint of mystery.
The glass cage was lowered shortly before midnight, but it had photos of possums taped to the glass. Logan would not say whether a live animal was inside.
Logan says the 19th annual Possum Drop will go on again this Dec. 31.
Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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