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State lawmakers introduce bill prohibiting the intentional release of balloons in the commonwealth

Applauded by animal activists and sportsmen's groups, the bill's authors cite the danger posed by "balloon litter" to wildlife, livestock, and pets.
Credit: Storyblocks

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania lawmakers on Wednesday moved to prohibit the intentional release of balloons in the commonwealth, citing the serious threat posed to wildlife, livestock, and pets by balloon litter.

House Bill 2614, introduced by state Rep. Matthew Dowling (R-Fayette/Somerset), would prohibit any state or local organization, entity or person older than age 13 from intentionally releasing a balloon into the atmosphere, with some exceptions for balloons released for scientific or meteorological purposes, and hot air balloons. 

Those who violate the law could be subject to community service or a fine of up to $100, according to the legislation.

“Balloon releases may feel like a moving way to remember a loved one or celebrate a special occasion, but there is nothing special about littering our beaches, forests and countrysides with deflated balloons and ribbons that pose a serious threat to animals of all kinds,” Dowling said. “There are better ways to celebrate and remember our loved ones that will not bring harm to others.”

Rep. Marci Mustello (R-Butler), a co-sponsor of the bill, added: “As the former president of the board of directors for the Butler County Humane Society, along with my current position with the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, I support this effort to protect our wildlife, livestock and companion animals.”

According to the Humane Society of the United States, seabirds, sea turtles, seals and other marine mammals are injured or killed after ingesting or becoming entangled in balloons and their strings. In fact, a recent study found balloons are the leading marine debris risk of mortality for seabirds. Animals on land, such as horses, cows and turtles, are also at risk.

“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. 

"We are grateful to Rep. Dowling for introducing a bill to ban intentional balloon releases,” said Kristen Tullo, Pennsylvania state director for the Humane Society of the United States.

Rachel E. Metz, vice president of Animal Well-Being at the Philadelphia Zoo, also spoke in support of the bill: “The Philadelphia Zoo is committed to protecting wildlife and wild places around the world and, maybe more importantly, in the beautiful and biologically diverse state of Pennsylvania. Part of the zoo’s mission is to inspire conservation action for animals and habitats. The proposed ban on the mass release of balloons is an excellent step towards protecting our natural resources.”

Harold Daub, vice president and legislative chairman of United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, noted balloon releases are a concern among the sportsman community as well. 

“The United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania strongly supports House Bill 2614, legislation aimed at ending intentional balloon releases in Pennsylvania. This bill reflects growing concerns regarding the harmful effects of balloon releases on the environment, human safety, wildlife, and the simple enjoyment of being in our wild places here in Penn’s Woods,” he said.

The bill is awaiting consideration by the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

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