The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is investigating a case of animal cruelty after several people were reportedly seen in a Facebook video torturing an opossum. The video of a group of presumed juveniles was reportedly live-streamed on May 11, 2017. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources declined to comment Tuesday, citing the open investigation.
KHQA News reported that the Lee County Attorney’s office confirmed that the case was being investigated by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. In the video that was live-streamed to Facebook, individuals are seen exhibiting extended and extreme violence toward the mammal. KHQA News reported that the marsupial was clearly swung around by its tail and further tortured with objects. The opossum was hit with “some sort of a bat” and was “smashed with a large rock.”
KHQA News reported that Lee County Attorney Clint Boddicker has not determined if charges will be filed in the animal cruelty case. Reportedly, Boddicker is waiting to learn the results of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ investigation before deciding whether to issue charges for animal cruelty against any of the participants in the alleged animal torture.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has a page all about opossums on its website called, “7 Cool Things You Should Know About Opossums.”
Among the seven cool things that the DNR has to say about opossums like the one that was allegedly filmed being tortured to death is that unlike most mammals, opossum are “rabies resistant.”
“Most common Iowa mammals, like raccoons and skunks, are subject to some parasites and diseases, including rabies. This has particular negative implications for humans, as an animal infected with rabies may become aggressive and infected bites lead to emergency room visits for treatment. On the bright side, opossums are very unlikely to carry rabies. Their body temperature is too low for the rabies virus to thrive in, thus they are less prone to the disease.”
Still, on that same page, the DNR explains another fact about opossum that makes the alleged torture of the opossum in Lee County even more disturbing. The DNR of Iowa’s website states that brain activity remains completely unaffected when an opossum is “playing ‘possum’,” so any opossum scared enough to pretend to be dead is also fully conscious.
“Should worst come to worst, the opossum is prepared. If they come across a threat that they don’t expect to fend off, the opossum will keel over and appear as dead as possible for several hours. There is debate as to whether this reaction is voluntary or not, but the duration of the behavior and apparent inability to stop at will suggest the reaction is involuntary. The mouth falls open and the tongue lolls out, breathing and heart rates drop dramatically, and the possum will even emit feces and a foul-smelling green liquid from its anal glands to smell as dead as possible. Brain activity, however, remains unaffected, and the opossum is fully conscious. If the reaction is indeed involuntary, it may be similar to experiencing sleep paralysis.”
Boddicker is Lee County’s brand new attorney. On May 2, Boddicker beat out the incumbent Attorney Ross Braden in a special election, the Hawk Eye reported. Boddicker has already begun work on an unrelated animal control ordinance for the area that would limit who would be allowed to shoot dogs that are running free. Currently, Iowa state law says that almost anyone can shoot a dog if that person claims that they suspect the dog of being viscous. The exception to this broad right is when local ordinances specifically assign those decisions to law enforcement, according to the Fort Madison Daily Democrat. Boddicker and others seek to limit who can shoot a dog that escapes and is running free.
Due to the disturbing nature of the live-streamed Facebook video of the opossum being tortured, all currently available media reports have not included the video footage.
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