The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and its Colorado affiliates will defer moving forward with a Colorado ballot initiative banning dairy cattle tail docking in the state, HSUS said in a May 13 press release.

According to the release, Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president, HSUS Colorado state director Jacquelyn Pyun, Colorado dairy farmer Angela Smith, along with two members of the HSUS Agriculture Council for Colorado – chair Dr. Tom Parks, DVM, and cattle rancher Mike Callicrate – indicated they’ve decided against moving forward with a ballot measure this election cycle.

According to published reports, Callicrate filed four Colorado ballot measures in January 2014. Two dealt with broad animal husbandry practices, while two dealt directly with tail docking. The HSUS decision to defer action is apparently related to language changes made to the ballot measures in April by the Colorado Legislative Council and Title Board.

“Even though polling shows that Colorado voters favor a ballot measure to protect dairy cows from abuses like tail docking by a three-to-one margin, we have decided against moving forward this election cycle,” said Callicrate. “The Colorado Legislative Council and Title Board misconstrued our simple and straightforward language. Their action effectively runs out the clock for a refile of new language. We plan to launch a website to educate citizens, including livestock producers, about this abusive practice.”

The issue isn't dead.

“The plan to have Colorado agriculture industry representatives conduct ongoing review of animal welfare issues – hatched in 2008 after the passage of a bill to phase out extreme confinement of breeding pigs and veal calves – has been a complete failure,” Pacelle added. “Even though almost every dairy trade industry association and every major veterinary group opposes the unnecessary and inhumane practice of cutting off cows’ tails, this group could not muster the resolve to deal with this problem. We are not aware of any animal welfare improvements that this group has initiated. This leaves us with legislative or ballot initiatives as the only potential pathways for reform.”

A bill introduced last year by Rep. Steve Lebsock (D-Thornton) would have required that tail docking be prohibited unless conducted under anesthesia by a veterinarian. Approved in committee, that bill failed to clear the Colorado House.