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California Legislature Passes Bill to Outlaw Tail Docking of Cows

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States applauds legislators in California, the nation's number-one dairy state, for passing a bill with bipartisan support to prevent a common mutilation of dairy cows. The California Assembly passed the bill on Thursday, and the California Senate passed the bill on May 26. 

California Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez introduced Senate Bill 135 in February to ban the painful and unnecessary tail docking of dairy cows.

"By signing this legislation, Governor Schwarzenegger can halt the cruel and inhumane tail docking of tens of thousands of cows in California," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "All animals deserve humane treatment, including animals raised for food, and there's no excuse for this needless mutilation of animals." 

The bill's supporters include The HSUS, the California Veterinary Medical Association, the ASPCA, the California Farm Bureau and the California Cattlemen's Association. If enacted, S.B. 135 would be the first state law banning tail docking. California is the largest dairy state in the nation, and enactment of this measure should increase pressure on other large dairy states to follow suit.

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.

Comprehensive research by California animal scientists and veterinarians found that "the available data do not support claims that docking improves the dairy workers' comfort or safety or the health or cleanliness of the cow's udder." The California Dairy Quality Assurance program even advises that "[t]here is no benefit to tail docking normal, healthy tails in dairy cattle based on peer-reviewed scientific studies and governmental sponsored research." The program concludes that "[t]ail docking… must not be routinely performed on the dairy herd."


  • Tail docking is the partial amputation of up to two-thirds of a dairy cow's tail, a procedure typically performed without anesthetic.
  • There are approximately 1.8 million cows raised for milk on 2,200 farms in California, the nation's top dairy-producing state.
  • 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 to 15 percent of in-state dairies.
  • 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. The passage of Proposition 2 demonstrated to lawmakers that Californians are deeply concerned about the humane treatment of farm animals.


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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.