Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a bill this week making it illegal to dock tails in California.

Bill SB135, states that it is illegal for any person who cuts the solid part of the tail of any horse or cattle in the operation known as "docking," or in any other operation performed for the purpose of shortening the tail of any horse or cattle, within the State of California. Tail docking is exempt if any cattle’s tail is removed for emergency purpose of saving the animal’s life or reliving pain, provided the emergency treatment is performed consistent with the Veterinary Medicine Practice Act.

The bill will become effective in January.

In the 17 years that I have been editor of Dairy Herd Management, tail docking is the only subject on which we have done a complete 180-degree turn. In March 1995, we published an article entitled, “Tail docking makes sense.” In October 2002, we ran a follow-up article entitled, “Tail docking makes little sense,” citing studies published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Journal of Dairy Science. Around that same time, I heard Bernard Rollin, of Colorado State University, address an industry group on the topic. He pointed to the favorable image that the dairy industry had with the consuming public, but then said, “To take that (positive image) and, in effect, pee on it by tail docking, you are your own worst enemies.” So, the ban on tail docking in California comes as no surprise. It should also serve as a reminder that we need to solve our own problems before outside forces step in. — Tom Quaife, editor