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 (login required) for information and an optional template school policy on Dogs at School.


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

For animal use in teaching to be justified, schools must comply with the 3Rs filter:

  • 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.

Before using live animals for teaching, schools must also:

  • ensure they have a current Scientific Procedures Premises Licence (Schools), noting that government schools are already covered under the Department’s licence
  • get approval from the Victorian Schools Animal Ethics Committee (VSAEC), noting that some activities are pre-approved by the VSAEC, in which case schools must submit a notice of intent for the future use of a pre-approved activity to the VSAEC rather than being required to obtain new approval
  • submit completion advice to the VSAEC when the activity has been completed, and ensure that appropriate records are kept.

Schools must use the VSAEC approval and reporting system for these approval, notification and completion processes.

Schools do not require VSAEC approval for animals that are not used for teaching purposes (such as classroom pets, therapy pets, environmental enrichment animals). However, in these circumstances, the care and welfare of the animal is of paramount importance, including care during weekends and holiday periods and veterinary care when needed.

Some activities using animals are prohibited and must not be carried out by schools.

The Guidance tab provides comprehensive advice for schools on requirements relating to animals in schools, including:

  • the requirement to hold a Scientific Procedures Premises License (Schools) in order to use animals for teaching
  • the role of the VSAEC
  • when and how to apply to the VSAEC for approval, when approval is not required, and prohibited activities
  • animal welfare requirements, including species notes
  • requirements relating to the completion of teaching activities using live animals, and other record keeping requirements.


For the purpose of using animals for teaching purposes, 'animals' means all live non-human vertebrates and cephalopods.

Any mollusc of the class Cephalopoda, having tentacles attached to the head, including cuttlefish, squid, and octopus.

Teaching activity
The term ‘teaching activity’ is defined in the Australian code for the care and use of animals of scientific purposes 8th edition, as 'any action or group of actions undertaken with the aim of achieving a scientific purpose, where the scientific purpose is imparting or demonstrating knowledge or techniques to achieve an educational outcome in science, as specified in the relevant curriculum or competency requirements.'

Relevant legislation

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

Reviewed 08 April 2021

Policy last updated

23 November 2020


  • Schools


School Education Programs and Support Strategy and Integration Division

Was this page helpful?