education.vic.gov.au

School operations

Teaching with Animals

VSAEC application and approval process

Overview

Step 1

Determine whether your planned use of animals requires approval from the Victorian Schools Animal Ethics Committee (VSAEC) or in the case of pre-approved activities, a notice of intent. Refer to: When is VSAEC approval requiredExternal Link . If in doubt, schools should contact the VSAEC Executive Officer at animalethics@education.vic.gov.au

Step 2

If the activity is a Pre-Approved Activity, notify the VSAEC of the activity by submitting an online notice of intent before it starts and once it is completed. Online notice of intent forms for various teaching activities involving animals are available on the Forms and record keeping chapter.

Activities must be undertaken in the manner described in the pre-approved activities guidance documents. Refer to the Resources tab.

If approval from the VSAEC is required submit a new activity request via the online VSAEC application form available on the Forms and record keeping chapter.

Schools can only proceed with the activity after receiving a notification of approval.

Before submitting the request:

  • non-government school applicants must make sure the school’s Scientific Procedures Premises Licence (SPPL) is current – government schools are covered under the department’s licence
  • applicants must consider the justification for the use of animals and understand the welfare issues of keeping and using animals in schools.

If approval from the VSAEC is not required schools may proceed with the project, ensuring there is appropriate supervision for students, and care for animals including monitoring and record-keeping.

There is no requirement to report to the VSAEC in this case. Refer to: Animal welfare requirementsExternal Link .

Step 3

Maintain appropriate monitoring records for reporting and audit purposes, as well as to ensure continuity of care of animals at all times. Schools must:

Step 4

Submit completion report to VSAEC within 30 days of completion of the activity. Refer to the Forms and record keeping chapter of this guidance for more information.

When is VSAEC approval required?

By law, any use of animals in schools that constitutes a 'scientific procedure' requires an ethics application to the VSAEC, and the project must not begin until the school has received VSAEC approval.

This policy contains general guidance on common types of animal use in schools and whether approval is required – refer to: categories of animal use and common examples of animal use in schools. However, there may be uses of animals that constitute a scientific procedure that fall outside these category definitions. If you are unsure whether your project meets the definition of a 'scientific procedure' and requires approval, contact animalethics@education.vic.gov.au

For all animal use categories, schools are required to comply with animal welfare obligations outlined in department policy and the Victorian Codes of Practice. The Wildlife in schoolsExternal Link guidance may also apply. Regardless of category, schools must provide for the lifetime welfare of animals and their offspring.

Categories of animal use

There are 8 pre-approved activities detailed on the Resources tab. If a school is undertaking one of these activities, the school must submit the relevant online notice of intent to the VSAEC. Notice of intent forms for various teaching activities involving animals are available on the Forms and record keeping chapter.

If your planned activity is not a pre-approved activity, please consider which of the 4 categories of animal use it falls under.

Category 1 – approval not required

Observational studies of animals in their normal environment, with no direct contact with the animal(s) or disturbance to the animals’ normal activity.

Category 2 – approval required if the activity is for a scientific or educational objective

Basic handling, feeding and care of mature animals, with no change to animal’s normal conditions or behaviour.

Category 3 – approval required

Disruption to animal’s normal conditions or behaviour.

Category 4 – prohibited

Invasive procedures involving pain, risk to the animal and/or recovery. This category of animal use is prohibited in schools. Refer to ‘prohibited activities’ for further detail.

For further detail please refer to the detailed categories table on the Resources tab.

Common examples of animal use in schools

Hatching projects

Schools need to apply to the VSAEC for approval to undertake chick or hatching programs.

If schools are interested in using chickens as part of a teaching program, the VSAEC has developed a Guide to teaching activities involving chickens (DOCX)External Link .

Due to animal welfare concerns, the VSAEC will not approve applications for short-term chick hatching programs from schools. The VSAEC considers ‘short-term’ to be 2 weeks or less.

Teaching activities involving duckling hatching will be assessed by the VSAEC on a case by case basis.

School pets and animals used for student support

School pets (such as chickens) or animals used for student support or environment enrichment (such as story/therapy dogs) do not require approval from the VSAEC provided the animals are not being used for explicit teaching purposes as defined in the Australian code. However, the primary concern should be the welfare of the animal, including care during weekends and holiday periods and veterinary care when needed.

Schools must follow the relevant codes of practice for the welfare of animalsExternal Link when keeping any animal as a class pet.

Refer to advice from Animal Welfare Victoria on keeping pets in classroomsExternal Link as well as resources on caring for specific types of pet animalsExternal Link .

Schools will need approval from the VSAEC for school pets if:

  • the animal is subjected to intervention or explicit teaching activities
  • activities are beyond routine care
  • activities are conducted with the animal to achieve educational outcomes or as part of the curriculum.

Work experience

VSAEC approval is also not required for formal work experience involving routine husbandry procedures if all of the following conditions apply:

  • the animals are on their home property
  • the procedures would occur normally as part of routine management
  • the animals are not subjected to anything additional to what would occur in routine management
  • the work experience teacher or demonstrator is appropriately qualified to carry out the procedure.

Dead animals and dissection

VSAEC approval only applies to live animals. However, schools should still consider justification for using animal material in reference to the 3Rs. Refer to the Policy tab.

Prohibited activities

The following activities using animals must not be carried out in schools:

  • surgical, invasive or other harmful procedures other than normal animal husbandry procedures
  • induction of any infectious diseases or illness
  • production of nutritional deficiency
  • exposure to stimuli that cause abnormal physiological or behavioural responses
  • administration of toxins, ionising radiation and other bio-hazardous materials
  • breeding of animals solely for dissection.

Refer to the Forms and record keeping chapter of this guidance for more information.

What does the VSAEC need to see in an application?

The questions on the application form address the following criteria:

  • respect for animals and an understanding of their needs
  • a strong case for using animals in the classroom and the high educational value of the proposed project
  • evidence that real alternatives have been considered and a convincing argument that none (either alone or in combination) are sufficient to achieve the same educational benefit that using animals would achieve
  • justification – the VSAEC needs to be convinced that the educational benefit of the project is large enough to balance or outweigh the predicted or potential impact on the animals
  • steps to reduce the number of animals required
  • steps to minimise the impact on the animals
  • the competence and experience of all animal carers on the project
  • details of the housing and transport of the animals and an explanation of how they meet requirements
  • a detailed description of the use of the animals – for example, what, when, how and why
  • evidence that the sourcing of the animals meets requirements
  • an account and justification of what will happen to the animals at the end of the project.

Photos (for example, of animal housing arrangements) are welcome.

Relevant resources:

VSAEC application decision process

The VSAEC meets at least 4 times a year to assess new applications for use of animals in schools, review current projects and evaluate completion reports.

The VSAEC must assess applications in line with precise and detailed prescriptions in the Australian code. Meetings must comply with quorum requirements specified in the Australian code and follow a prescribed process with the mandated voting members in attendance. Decisions are by consensus of the voting members of the committee. Failure to arrive at a consensus defers an application outcome to a subsequent meeting.

It is essential that applications are completed with sufficient clarity and specificity, so that all members of the committee can understand the application and arrive at an informed and fair decision. Failing to address all questions or supply all information in a simple and easily understood manner is likely to delay the approval process.

Planning ahead and seeking advice early in the process can be the difference between a project application gaining approval and it being rejected.

While applications must be with the VSAEC Executive Officer at least 2 weeks before the scheduled meeting, earlier submissions are welcome.

Teachers who have any questions or concerns should seek advice from the VSAEC Executive Officer at: animalethics@education.vic.gov.au

Guidance chapter on VSAEC application and approval requirements for using live animals in teaching

Reviewed 11 October 2022

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