The Lead

To protect wildlife, SWPa lawmaker wants to take the air out of mass balloon releases

By: - June 4, 2022 6:30 am

Protesters release balloons during the ‘Where is the Love’ protest in Lancaster, Pa. on Sunday, 2/14/21 (Capital-Star photo by Lauren Manelius).

Mass balloon releases at gender reveal parties, memorial services, and other special occasions, could become a thing of the past if a southwestern Pennsylvania lawmaker gets his way.

Violators could be hit with fines up to $100, according to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Matthew Dowling, R-Fayette, who says he’s pursuing the legislation to protect the commonwealth’s wildlife and livestock.

Dowling’s bill, HB 2614, which is now before the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee would forbid people from releasing 10 or more balloons. 

“While balloon releases may feel like a moving way to remember a loved one or celebrate a special occasion, we need to think about where those balloons end up,” Dowling said. “They sometimes travel many miles from where they were released and end up in farm fields or waterways where they are mistaken as food and in many documented cases have resulted in animal deaths.”

Kristen Tullo, Pennsylvania state director for the Humane Society of the United States, echoed Dowling’s concerns, noting the harm balloons can cause to animals. 

“Balloon litter is detrimental to Pennsylvania’s environment and causes immense pain and suffering to animals who mistake deflated or burst balloon pieces for food or get entangled in their strings,” Tullo said. We are grateful to Rep. Dowling for introducing a bill to ban intentional balloon releases.”

The Pennsylvania Game Commission, which is charged with managing and protecting wildlife in Pennsylvania as well as its habitats, did not return the Capital-Star’s request for comment. 

In a statement issued earlier this week, Dowling called on Pennsylvanians to find alternatives to balloon releases. 

“It’s time we all recognize the dangers posed by balloon releases and look for alternative ways to celebrate or remember a loved one,” Dowling said.

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