The animal-welfare organization PETA sued in Wake County Superior Court on Thursday asking a judge to stop the state from allowing the New Year’s Eve "Possum Drop" in Clay County and declare as unconstitutional a law enacted this year to allow it.
The lawsuit said the statute violates state and federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process for being vague and selective.
A bill the General Assembly passed and the governor signed sought to clarify a long-running legal fight between People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and supporters of the annual Brasstown event in which a possum is lowered in a box at midnight.
The new law allows it between Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 every year. That, according to the lawsuit, "creates a zone of lawlessness in Clay County" because it allows anything to happen to the possum.
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Among the plaintiffs is an opossum expert, who says the law would seem to allow her to do what she can to prevent a possum’s capture or to rescue a captured one. But the law is vague; she doesn’t know if she’d be prosecuted, according to the suit.
PETA will also be in an administrative law judge’s courtroom in Raleigh on Friday arguing with the state over whether the state Wildlife Resources Commission’s authority to issue licenses for the event the past two years. The state is arguing that action is moot because of the new law.
The new lawsuit was filed because only a superior court judge, not an administrative law judge, can declare that a state law is unconstitutional.