BREAKING NEWS: About-Face in Andrews NC - Town Reneges on ‘Possum Drop’ Agreement

Town ignores public outcry after opossum injured and forced to perform in 2018/19 event loses leg to infection

A gravely injured opossum used in a cruel New Year’s Eve tradition held in Andrews, NC this year is recovering from having her leg amputated, and although she cannot be released back into the wild, “Millie” will live out her life in a wildlife sanctuary.

After discovering the opossum’s plight would be made public, Mayor James Reid negotiated and signed an agreement over the weekend with three wildlife advocacy organizations - The Opossum Pouch Sanctuary, Rescue and Rehabilitation; Animal Help Now; and Opossum Awareness & Advocacy. The agreement stipulated that the town would not hold anymore “possum drops” using live animals, at least for the duration of the mayor’s tenure, in tacit exchange for the coalition dropping its opposition to the activity.

The mayor, despite indicating he had developed an understanding that opossums are gentle animals and actually make very good neighbors, backed out of the agreement on Monday.

As part of the agreement, the mayor had promised to work with the organizations to help repeal the law passed by the North Carolina General Assembly that allows cruelty to opossums for a five-day period surrounding the New Year holiday. (You heard that right.) The legislation was passed at the behest of Clay County Commissioner Clay Logan, who makes money each year from these events.

With the town now backing out of the agreement, the organizations are going public with Millie’s story.

A “possum drop” involves:

  • capturing a wild opossum by any means necessary (including leghold traps, snares, hounds, etc.),

  • keeping the opossum confined in a cage or crate or plexiglass box,

  • hoisting the animal into the air a few hours before midnight on December 31 (regardless of temperature or weather),

  • allowing the animal to be suspended for several hours while surrounded by a noisy crowd, loud music and fireworks,

  • haphazardly lowering the animal onto a stage during the raucous countdown at midnight,

  • and then either releasing the damaged and distressed animal back into the wild or giving her to wildlife rehabilitators to mend back to health to the extent possible.

The anachronistic novelty act was created by Clay Logan in nearby Brasstown.

In Andrews this year, when a wildlife rehabilitator went backstage to take custody of the opossum just after midnight, she was met by a horrible odor that she knew to be an infection. The animal was taken to a veterinary clinic, where she received care including antibiotics, but her infection spread, and her left front leg was amputated Friday.

According to attending veterinarian Dr. Eric McCurry, the opossum’s injury is consistent with the cutting off of a blood supply, such as by a leghold trap or a snare, and had led to a severe and spreading infection that could not be contained. Dr. McCurry said amputation was necessary to save the animal’s life.

David Crawford, executive director of Animal Help Now, states, “This opossum was only about nine months old when she was trapped. She was a shy little animal getting used to her first North Carolina winter when she was cruelly removed from her home and her mother for this so-called celebration.

"She was placed in a crate with an untreated leg injury for several hellish days, and then she was paraded out while very sick in front of an uncaring crowd in Andrews, and now she’s lost a leg and she'll never be able to go home. All for a few hours of stupid and cruel ‘entertainment’ to fatten the wallet of Clay Logan. Mayor Reid and the town board are celebrating Andrew’s embrace of 19th-century sideshow entertainment. What’s next? Diving mules? Chimpanzees on roller skates?”

The executive director of Opossum Awareness & Advocacy, states, “The last thing opossums need is to be bullied. They are shy, intelligent animals. And they are good neighbors. Opossums eat ticks and other insects, rodents and snakes. They help prevent Lyme disease and rarely contract rabies. The only marsupial in North America, opossums are nature’s pest control and should be celebrated humanely.”

Beth Sparks, a wildlife rehabilitator who for more than 12 years has publicly opposed the opossum “drop,” states, “Exploiting a shy wild animal is immoral – plain and simple. NC legislators should be ashamed of their complicity here. They are responsible for allowing a window each year when opossums can be abused. We demand they repeal this law in the 2019 assembly session.”

To make matters worse, both the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have failed to protect these vulnerable animals.

The event is broadly opposed for ethical reasons and has been a subject of controversy through the years. A year ago, the organizer shuttered the Brasstown event, but it was resurrected this year when the Town of Andrews opted to host it.

We are calling on Andrews to abandon the exploitation of wildlife in future events, including New Year’s Eve celebrations. Further, we are calling on the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal the law it created that legalizes animal cruelty.

Quotes from wildlife experts

“Opossums are incredibly timid and gentle souls who can become so overwhelmed with fear and anxiety that their bodies literally shut down into a coma-like state. Stress cardiomyopathy, capture myopathy and stress-related dermal septic necrosis (DSN) are common in opossums and can be fatal. The opossum drop is, without a doubt, cruel.”

—Emilie Nelson, Director, NC Wildlife Rehab, Lincolnton, NC

“A few years ago, wildlife professionals, attesting to the well-known stress-related diseases common in opossums, sent many documents and affidavits to various authorities. These authorities are complicit in causing the suffering and the amputation this animal endured.”

—Stephanie Weinberg, Wildlife Rehabilitator, Emerald Isle, NC

“The rest of the year, we are – quite rightly – strictly regulated to provide decent housing and care for opossums, but for those five days in winter, it's ‘do as you please’. Absolute hypocrisy!”

—Hannah Simmonds, President, River Rock Wildlife Rehab, Connelly Springs, NC

“Opossums are shy and quiet creatures. The fear and stress caused by being captured and subjected to noise and general chaos will shorten the life of an animal with an already brief lifespan.”

—Rebecca F. Marlin, Outer Banks Wild Care, Buxton, NC

You can find the original post here at the Animal Help Now Facebook page.

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