New state law bans docking of cow tails

October 12, 2009 

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation banning the practice of amputating part of cows' tails despite criticizing the bill this summer.

The new law, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, D-Shafter, outlaws the practice known as tail docking by Jan. 1.

It won the support of a diverse group of organizations including the Humane Society of the United States, California Veterinary Medical Association, California Cattlemen's Association and California Farm Bureau Federation.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor took issue with Senate Bill 135 in July because it was being discussed at a time when the state was dealing with the budget crisis.

"He thought it was a worthwhile bill," McLear said. "But not during the budget negotiations."

Florez, in a prepared news release, thanked the governor for his "intestinal fortitude to reverse himself," but he also chided him for his earlier opposition.

State dairy officials consider the bill a non-issue, saying a vast majority of California's dairies do not use the practice.

Tail docking was used to prevent fecal matter, mud and other contaminants from becoming a problem in the milking parlors.

Jim Cullor, director of the University of California's Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center in Tulare, said that only about 2.5% of the state's 1.5 million dairy cows have their tails docked.

"It really is not a practice that has been done in a while," Cullor said. "And there really isn't any science to support that a tail needs to be docked."

Florez defended the bill saying that despite the low numbers of tail docking the new law is the right thing to do.

"The argument that only a small percentage of farmers participate in tail docking does nothing to protect those cows who are not as fortunate in who they are owned by," Florez said. "While I'm glad that the majority of farmers have the good conscience not to take part in this cruel and unnecessary practice, laws need to be put on the books for those whose own moral code is not enough to prevent such behavior."

The reporter can be reached at brodriguez@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6327.

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