Use of animals in schools

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA

​​​​Victorian government, Catholic and independent schools must follow an approval process for using live animals in teaching.

What do I need to do?

  1. At all times you must consider the ethical and welfare issues involved by following the 3R filter
  2. Ensure your school's Scientific Procedures Premises Licence is current.
  3. If your planned activity is on the list of pre-approved activities, you must notify the Victorian Schools Animal Ethics Committee.
  4. If your planned activity is not pre-approved, you must submit a request to the Committee.
  5. After the activity, you must submit completion advice to the Committee and maintain records.

A step-by-step decision making process is available to help plan how you can use animals in schools, see: Decision Making Process

The 3R filter

When planning to use animals, teachers must consider the ethical and welfare issues. For animal use to be justified, the 3Rs must be complied with as follows:

  • Replacement – where possible animals should be replaced by, for example, models or ICT
  • 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​

Submitting requests and notifications

Requests, notifications and completion advice must be submitted to the Victorian Schools Animal Ethics Committee via the Online Approval and Reporting System.

To access the system, see: Approval and Reporting System 

For information on using the system, see: Using the approval and reporting system

Record keeping, incident reporting and school audits

Schools must maintain records of animal use. Below are a number of forms that would be suitable for schools to use or adapt to their needs.

Animal health reports and records

The health of all animals must be monitored and records retained by the school. The School Animal Health form (in the forms section below) is a sample. The monitoring and recording of the ongoing health of the animals can be done in other ways, such as a daily diary, provided all the information required on this form is collected and maintained. Records must be made available on request to RSPCA inspectors, BAW Auditors, VSAEC or officers of the school system or sectors.

The Code stipulates:

  • 3.1.9 Investigators and teachers must ensure that records of the use and monitoring of animals used for scientific purposes are maintained
  • 6.2.4 Teachers must keep a record of the number of students involved and the number of animals used in each activity and the welfare outcomes
  • 6.4.9 Detailed animal care guidelines and complete animal records must be available in schools for inspection by VSAEC members and regulatory bodies.
Reporting on the death of an animal or unexpected adverse event

The 'Adverse Event involving School Animals' form (see Forms below) must be completed if an animal dies in unusual or unexpected circumstances. VSAEC must be notified promptly.

An unexpected adverse event in a teaching activity using animals is anything that happens that meets both the following criteria:

  • Unexpected - an event not as described in the approved proposal or subsequent documents submitted to VSAEC
  • Adverse - not in the best interests of the animal

Notifying VSAEC of the death of an animal or of unexpected adverse events is a requirement of the Code:

  • 2.2.27 - The records maintained by teachers and animal facility managers will enable the AEC to verify that the welfare of animals has been monitored as agreed. Such records also enable a critical investigation of the cause(s) of unexpected adverse events as a basis for future prevention strategies.
  • 2.2.28 - Teachers and animal facility managers should promptly notify the AEC of any unexpected, adverse events that may impact on the wellbeing of an animal in their care.
  • 3.1.12 - Teachers must make reports to AEC as requested, including prompt notification of any adverse or unexpected effects that impact on animal wellbeing, advice when a project is completed or discontinued and the information required for the annual report of any ongoing project.
  • 6.4.13 - The unexpected death of an animal or adverse outcome should be reported promptly to VSAEC.

Reporting these events assist VSAEC to monitor activities. It also encourages teachers to investigate the cause(s) of the event and provides a basis for future prevention strategies to improve animal welfare and activity outcomes.

Forms
School audits

In complying with the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes, members from VSAEC are obliged to conduct a number of individual school visits annually to inspect animal housing and laboratory areas and record findings. Records of inspection include the names of those who attended, observations, any identified problems, follow-up and outcomes. It is important that schools maintain their record keeping of school animals as these documents are requested as part of any inspection.

Additionally, the Department of Primary Industries, through the Bureau of Animal Welfare conducts triennial audits of licences and VSAEC to assess compliance with relevant legislation and codes of practice. VSAEC last underwent audit in October 2011. The audit protocol can be found at: Department of Environment and Primary Industries

Any visit should be viewed as an educational opportunity for both schools and auditors.

Using chickens in schools

If schools are interested in using chickens as part of a teaching program, VSAEC has developed the Raising Healthy Chickens (docx - 56.44kb) guide. This is designed to ensure that all teaching activities involving chickens occurs in accordance with the Code.

If schools receive any information or advertising from chicken hatching companies stating that their hatching programs are a pre-approved activity, be advised that this is incorrect. Schools wishing to use chicken hatching programs will need to apply to VSAEC for approval.

About the Victorian Schools Animal Ethics Committee

The Victorian Schools Animal Ethics Committee helps schools comply with the following legislation and codes:

In 2017, the Comittee will meet on:

  • 21 February
  • 20 March
  • 19 June
  • 11 September
  • 4 December
Committee composition

The Code stipulates a prescribed committee membership. VSAEC comprises:

  • Chairperson
  • Executive Officer
  • Independent Schools Victoria Representative
  • Catholic Education Representative
  • Category A: veterinarians with relevant experience
  • Category B: persons with substantial recent scientific or teaching experience in the use of animals
  • Category C: independent persons not involved in the scientific use of animals who have a demonstrable commitment to, and established experience in, furthering the welfare of animals
  • Category D: independent persons who have not been involved in the use of animals in scientific or teaching activities and who are independent of the institution
  • Category E: persons responsible for the routine care of animals from within the institution
Terms of reference

For the terms of reference for the Victorian Schools Animal Ethics Committee, see: VSAEC Terms of Reference (doc - 564.5kb)

Complaints and grievances

The Victorian Schools Animal Ethics Committee has been established to help all Government, Catholic and Independent Victorian Schools comply with relevant legislation in the responsible care for animals used in teaching.

Complaints should be lodged with the Committee if you have any concerns regarding the care, use or treatment of any animal on school property. The matter should be reported immediately. For more information and to register a complaint, see: Complaints Process (doc - 172kb)

VSAEC is able to reject proposals for the use of animals in schools if the use of animals is not essential or justified and does not conform to the requirements of the Code. This will take into consideration factors including ethics, the impact on the animal or animals and the anticipated educational value.

A grievance can be lodged if you do not agree with the decision of the VSAEC concerning the approval of any application that has been made. For more information and to register a grievance, see: Grievance Process (doc - 164kb)

Contact

For enquiries, email: animalethics@edumail.vic.gov.au

For Approval and Reporting System login enquiries:

Service Desk
Ph: 1800 641 943
Select: option 4 (school technical support), option 4 (assistance with software), then option 3 (assistance with other software).