Justice for Millie


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It's been more than a year now since an injured and sick opossum was left dangling in a plexiglass box for hours above a raucous crowd on New Year's Eve 2018, while music blared and fireworks were set off. The shy and gentle animal we now call Millie survived her ordeal, though she will never recover from her injuries. Her leg was amputated in early January 2019, despite her veterinarian's every attempt to save it.

The veterinarian who treated Millie after the event stated that her injuries were consistent with those caused by leghold traps and snares. She had suffered both prolonged loss of circulation to her left front paw and a broken bone in her left front leg. Left untreated by her "handlers" before the event, Millie's injuries led to an infection so severe that it could be smelled from a distance during the New Year's Eve event.

Despite Millie's condition, organizers dangled her for hours prior to midnight in a box above a noisy crowd while a band played and fireworks were set off. Experts testify the stress from the raucous atmosphere alone – even without the injury and illness Millie was enduring – is likely to cause serious illnesses among shy, gentle animals such as opossums.

Amputation was necessary to save Millie's life. She is learning to get around on three legs, though you can still see her left shoulder joint at work in its futile attempt to move her phantom limb.

millie amputation

image of brain and msg of managing crises

Watch this short video for Millie's story.

millie video play button


An "opossum drop" is an event, similar to the New York City's Times Square ball drop, that takes place on New Year's Eve and involves:

  • trapping a wild opossum (by means including but not limited to leghold traps, snares, hounds, etc.) several days before the event,
  • keeping the opossum captive, surrounded by humans (who are viewed as predators by opossums), until the event,
  • caging the opossum in a plexiglass box and 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 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 traumatized opossum back into the wild, with little apparent concern for her well-being, or handing her over to wildlife rehabilitators so they can attempt to treat any physical trauma and stress-related illnesses and, if possible, return her to the wild.

The event is broadly opposed for ethical reasons and has been a subject of controversy through the years. It was legally sanctioned in 2015 when, after a lawsuit effectively ended the event, state legislators passed the following law: N.C.G.S. § 113-291.13, Application of wildlife laws to opossums. No State or local statutes, rules, regulations, or ordinances related to the capture, captivity, treatment, or release of wildlife shall apply to the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) between the dates of December 29 of each year and January 2 of each subsequent year.

millie being dropped

According to wildlife rehabilitators, several of the opossums used for the event over the years have required care before being released and several others were released with obvious injuries. Despite their claims, the organizers have never provided proof that veterinary care was provided for any of the animals used in the "drop."

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..."

North Carolina Wildlife Rehabilitators Weigh In

"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

Take Action!

North Carolina Residents

Anyone, Anywhere

  • Add your voice to those opposing this cruelty. To sign our new petition, click here.
  • Get your Millie Merch and wear it proudly!
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  • Join others in making a $5 financial contribution to Animal Help Now. Please be sure to tag your donation with "Millie".
baby opossum

Additional Information

Organizations Coordinating the Opposition to Opossum "Drops"

The Opossum's Pouch Sanctuary, Rescue and Rehabilitation
Animal Help Now