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Be A Hero - Release Zero - Aquarium Pets, That Is!

Erie Pet Amnesty Day avoids the release of unwanted aquarium pets through re-homing.

This is why you should never flush your fish! Source: WBTV/Facebook

Coming up on May 1, 2021 in Erie, PA is a special event called the Erie Pet Amnesty Day. This event will provide a safe, convenient, and humane alternative for pet owners to surrender unwanted aquatic pets including fish, turtles, amphibians, and invertebrates, so that release into the environment is never considered. The alternative - releasing a species into the environment - results in the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species which are non-native plants, animals, or pathogens that cause harm to the environment, the economy, and human or animal health.

Pennsylvania Sea Grant, the Erie Humane Society, and Herps Alive Foundation are hosting the Erie Pet Amnesty Day to encourage the connection between responsible pet ownership and environmental stewardship. Aquatic pets may be surrendered on Saturday, May 1, 2021 at the Erie Humane Society located at 2407 Zimmerly Road, Erie, PA 16506.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing, online registration is requested at

The aquarium trade and home aquariums are the second most popular hobby in the United States and are unfortunately one of the primary ways aquatic invasive species are spread into local waterways and lakes. Over 150 of these 'pet' species have already found their way to non-native habitats worldwide. Aquarists and water gardeners may release organisms for a variety of reasons:

  • Large size

  • Aggressive behavior

  • Becoming ill

  • Not being prepared for the full commitment involved in caring for a particular species

One example is the red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) which is the most popular turtle for sale in the United States. When purchased, these tiny little turtles capture the hearts of many children and adults who are unaware that their new pet can grow to be over 10 inches in diameter and live in captivity for more than 25 years. The red-eared slider's unfortunate fate is often to be released into local lakes and waterways where they do not belong and where they take over the food sources and habitats of native turtles such as the painted turtle (Chrysemys picta).

For more information about the Erie Pet Amnesty Day event, please contact Sara Stahlman (, Extension Leader at Pennsylvania Sea Grant.

(Left): Invasive adult red-eared slider found at Glade Run Lake. Credit: Renee

(Right): Native adult painted turtle. Credit: DaPuglet, "Turtle Stalking", CC BY-SA 2.0


Note: Near the beginning of this year, a pacu (which is a non-native fish species) was found on the shoreline of Glade Run Lake. This is an example of an exotic species being introduced into a natural habitat where it could be very destructive to the lake and its ecosystem. (See our blog post on this story for more details.)

Please avoid releasing unwanted pets into places like Glade Run Lake. Instead, seek out events like the Erie Pet Amnesty Day (occurring on May 1, 2021) and participate by surrendering your unwanted pet(s).

Pacu. Credit: Tom Cook


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