California Enacts Landmark Bill Banning Tail Docking of Cows
October 12, 2009
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed landmark legislation prohibiting a common and cruel mutilation of dairy cows—in the nation's top dairy state. The new law takes effect on January 1, 2010.
Introduced in February by California Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, Senate Bill 135 outlaws the painful and unnecessary tail docking of dairy cows. It was supported by The Humane Society of the United States, as well as the California Veterinary Medical Association, ASPCA, California Cattlemen's Association and California Farm Bureau.
The Senate passed the bill 27-12, and the Assembly approved it by a vote of 58-15.
"We're grateful to Senator Florez for his humane leadership on this important legislation, which sets a clear precedent that dairy cows deserve protection from unnecessary abuse," stated Jennifer Fearing, California state senior director for The HSUS. "We encourage other big dairy states to follow California's example and prohibit cruel tail-docking."
SB 135 was one of the first bills introduced after the reorganization of the California Senate Committee on Food and Agriculture into a body that includes animal welfare as one of its priorities. Senator Florez has cited California's landslide passage of Prop 2, the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, as an inspiration for the revamped committee.
There are approximately 1.8 million cows raised for milk on 2,200 farms in California, the nation's top dairy-producing state.
The practice of routinely amputating portions of dairy cows' tails—without any painkiller—is already banned in several nations and opposed by The HSUS, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Bovine Practitioners Association.
A Colorado State University 2005-2006 survey of 113 dairy facilities reported that 82.3 percent of dairies surveyed practiced tail-docking. Recent efforts by the California dairy industry estimate prevalence of the practice at 10-15% of in-state dairies.
Tail docking is the partial amputation of up to two-thirds of a dairy cow's tail, a procedure typically performed without anesthetic.
In a landslide November vote, Californians approved the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act—a new law making it a criminal offense (with a phase-out period) to confine hens in battery cages, pigs in gestation crates and calves in veal crates.