School operations

Teaching with Animals


This policy outlines the legal and Department policy requirements relating to the use, care and welfare of animals used for teaching purposes in schools.

The policy does not include information on student and family dogs on school grounds as this is at the discretion of the principal. Refer to the School Policy Templates Portal (staff login required) for information and an optional template school policy on Dogs at School.


Responsibilities of teachers and schools

Teachers, school principals and animal carers who are involved with the use and care for animals in schools must comply with the relevant legislation and codes of practice (refer below to Relevant legislation and Codes of practice).  

When planning to use animals for teaching, schools must consider the ethical and welfare issues involved.

For live animal use in teaching to be justified, evidence must demonstrate that the project has scientific or educational merit.

In addition, schools must follow the guiding principles for the humane use of animals in scientific research, known as the 3Rs:

  • Replacement: Where possible animals should be replaced by models, digital learning or other suitable methods.
  • Reduction: Use no more than the minimum number of animals. However, this should not be at the expense of greater suffering of individual animals.
  • Refinement: Activities must minimise handling, discomfort, distress or pain in animals.

Ethics approval for teaching with animals

Some projects or activities using animals may require approval from the Victorian Schools Animal Ethics Committee (VSAEC). Refer to: When is VSAEC approval required.

For these activities, schools must:

  • ensure they have a current Scientific Procedures Premises Licence (Schools) before commencing the project. All Victorian Government schools are covered by the Department’s licence. Non-government schools may refer to the Guidance tab for information: Scientific Procedures Premises Licence (Schools).
  • determine whether the activity requires approval from VSAEC or a notice of intent in the case of pre-approved activities. Refer to the Guidance tab: When is VSAEC approval required.
    • If approval from the VSAEC is required, schools must submit a detailed project application using VSAEC’s approval and reporting system. Schools can only commence the project once VSAEC approval is granted.
  • ensure that appropriate records are kept and submit a completion report to the VSAEC when the activity has been completed. Refer to the Guidance tab: Record-keeping and completion reports.

Detailed information on the application and approval process is available on the Guidance tab.

Non-teaching use of animals in schools

Schools do not require VSAEC approval for some uses of animals in schools, such as classroom pets and therapy pets. In these circumstances, the care and welfare of the animal is of paramount importance. This includes care during weekend and holidays periods, and veterinary care when needed. Refer to: When is VSAEC approval required.

Keeping wildlife in schools

Schools can obtain permits from the Office of the Conservation Regulator within the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning website to keep some wildlife species under certain circumstances. Refer to the Guidance tab: Permits to keep wildlife for further detail.


Any live non-human vertebrate (that is, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals encompassing domestic animals, purpose-bred animals, livestock, wildlife) and cephalopods (including octopus, cuttlefish and squid).

Animal carer
Any person involved in the care of animals that are used for scientific purposes, including during their acquisition, transport, breeding, housing and husbandry.

Areas of science
The Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (Australian code) provides the following examples: medicine, biology, agriculture, veterinary and other animal sciences, field trials, environmental studies, research, diagnosis, product testing and production of biological products (for example, blood, vaccines, antibodies).

Scientific procedure
'Scientific procedure' has the same meaning as in section 3(1) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic).

Scientific purposes
'Scientific purposes' is defined in the Australian code as meaning all activities conducted with the aim of acquiring, developing or demonstrating knowledge or techniques in all areas of science, including teaching, field trials, environmental studies, research (including the creation and breeding of a new animal line where the impact on animal wellbeing is unknown or uncertain), diagnosis, product testing and the production of biological products.

Relevant legislation and codes of practice

Department policy on the care and welfare of animals in schools and other requirements relating to using animals for teaching

Reviewed 27 September 2021

Policy last updated

6 August 2021


  • Schools


School Education Programs and Support Partnerships and Sector Support Division

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