Friends of Animals wants to thank everyone who responded to our call to action tell NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the Mute Swan Bill, created with input from Friends of Animals (FoA) and ornithologists, which was created to save the state’s 2,200 mute swans from a government-sanctioned death sentence.

On Monday, Cuomo signed the bill, filed back in February of 2014 by state Sen. Tony Avella at the request of FoA, after vetoing it twice. Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz was the bill’s House sponsor.

The law will establish a two-year moratorium on the NY Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) controversial 2013 plan to exterminate New York’s mute swans by 2025 and declare the birds a “prohibited species,” which has been under revision because of backlash from Friends of Animals and the public. The law also requires DEC to demonstrate that the swans have caused actual damage to the environment or to other species, including humans.

“Since the 1980s we have lobbied in the New England area to protect mute swans from nest destruction, egg addling and hunting, which have all been considered as wildlife management schemes. Governors have been deceived by the agencies that come up with these insidious plans that lack scientific evidence,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. “We are ecstatic about this victory and that NYDEC’s hateful attitude towards mute swans has been reversed—it is out of step with the very residents of New York whose tax dollars fund the agency.”

Friends of Animals is thankful that Sen. Avella responded to our urgent request to file this legislation and that he and Assemblyman Cymbrowitz remained steadfast in getting it passed. We had been swamped with phone calls and emails from frantic New York residents horrified that mute swans may be wiped out completely.

In DEC’s preposterous Draft Management Plan for Mute Swans in New York State, the agency tried to justify its potential killing spree by claiming they can cause a variety of problems in spite of their small numbers. It claims the problems include aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality and potential hazards to aviation—yet offered no demonstrable evidence of these absurd claims.

While the diet of mute swans consists of SAV, studies have shown that runoff from fertilizers, pesticides and animal waste contribute significantly to the loss of SAV in other areas, like the Chesapeake Bay. Since mute swans constitute only about one half of one percent of the approximately 400,000 waterfowl in New York counted by the DEC, and the nearly half a million waterfowl also consume aquatic vegetation, killing a relatively small population of mute swans would not contribute significantly to SAV recovery.

“The people have spoken and I’m pleased that the governor has listened,” Cymbrowitz said. “Tens of thousands of New Yorkers signed petitions, sent letters and emails to the Governor’s office, and, in my community, called my office to tell me how much they enjoy watching the swans in Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach. People were very vocal about their support of this bill, and I have to believe it made all the difference,” he said.