Working with animals - frequently asked questions

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

What is an animal?

The Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (8th Edition 2013) defines an animal as any live non-human vertebrate (that is, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals encompassing domestic animals, purpose-bred animals, livestock, wildlife) and cephalopods.

What is a pet?

A classroom pet is any animal, including native species, which is generally used for environmental enhancement and student enrichment in the classroom.

You must acquire VSAEC approval if you intend to use the animal for explicit teaching activities in science or agricultural programs.

What do I need to do if I want to conduct an activity using animals in my class?
  1. Check whether the use of animals is justified. Consider the 3Rs (Replace, Reduce, Refine) and the many alternatives available to animal use.
  2. Check that your school has a Scientific Procedures Premises Licence.
  3. If VSAEC approval for the proposed animal use activity has not been obtained, you need to gain approval prior to use. You will need to download and submit an application for approval to VSAEC through the Approval and Reporting system.
  4. If VSAEC approval for the proposed animal use activity has been obtained or appears on the pre-approved activity list, you will need to complete an online notice of intent to use form through the Approval and Reporting System.
  5. Record and report on the activity as required through the Approval and Reporting System.


Do I need VSAEC approval to keep a classroom pet such as a guinea pig, fish, lizard or bird?

No. Activities incorporating classroom pets are not included as a 'scientific procedure' unless the animals are subjected to intervention or explicit teaching activities beyond routine care that are conducted in order to achieve educational outcomes and/or as part of the curriculum.

However, teachers' primary concern must be the welfare of the animals at all times, including provision for care during weekends and holiday periods and for veterinary care when needed.

Can I keep a native animal at school?

Yes, under certain conditions. Prior to acquisition you will need a Wildlife Scientific Permit, available from the Department for Environment and Primary Industries, for approved native species.

No wildlife can be taken from the wild.

If you intend to use the animal for explicit teaching purposes, you must gain VSAEC approval. See DEPI – General School Authorisation (Government schools) – Wildlife Permit

Can I keep an orphaned or injured native animal?

No. Any orphaned animal or injured wildlife must be delivered as quickly as possible to an approved wildlife carer.

Contact RACV Wildlife Connect (13 11 11), Wildlife Victoria (13 000 94535), RSPCA Victoria (9224 2222), or your local vet to advise you on your nearest carer.

Are students able to adopt animals?

The Code requires safeguards to be made to ensure adequate, ongoing and responsible care of the animal at the conclusion of the activity. A clear written commitment is needed from a parent or guardian to ensure that the animals will be cared for adequately and responsibly.

The Department's School Policy and Advisory Guide also states that written consent from parent/guardians and students is required. See Animals in Schools.

Can I collect and observe frog spawn and tadpoles?

No. It is illegal to collect frog spawn and tadpoles throughout Victoria.

Do I need to gain VSAEC approval for use of snails, worms, bees and other invertebrates and should I record and report such use?

The Code covers live adult decapod crustaceans (lobsters, crabs, crayfish) and live adult cephalopods (including octopus,squid, cuttlefish and nautilus) and so would require VSAEC approval and be included in your reporting.

However, invertebrates such as worms, snails, and bees are not covered by the Code but may be prescribed by regulation at a later date.  Nonetheless, humane treatment and respect for all life should be demonstrated in schools.

Do I need to gain VSAEC approval for dissection activities?

VSAEC approval only pertains to live animals. However, you should still consider your justification for using animal material in reference to the 3Rs.

You do not require VSAEC approval to use animals for dissection if the dead animals are purchased from a commercial supplier or animal parts purchased from a retail outlet/abattoir.

Do I need to gain VSAEC approval to visit a zoo or farm?

No. Excursions to observe animals in their natural surroundings or to zoos and other registered wildlife parks do not require VSAEC approval. These venues are overseen by their own Animal Ethics Committee. Similarly, excursions to farms for observation of animal behaviour and husbandry activities are exempt from requiring VSAEC approval.

These external observational activities do not require VSAEC approval or notification. However, appropriate student/teacher behaviour around animals is essential at all times.

What about individuals or organisations bringing animals to school for a lesson or exhibit?

No. The following instances do not require VSAEC approval or notification:

  1. Observation of pets under the owner's control
  2. School performance by outside agencies that have animals as part of their exhibits
  3. Animal welfare organisations bringing animals to school (such as RSPCA or Responsible Pet Ownership Program)

However, appropriate student/teacher behaviour around animals is essential at all times.

I heard inappropriate animal imprinting is disallowed from 2012. Why was this activity disallowed?

Imprinting has been historically used to demonstrate early bonding by young animals, mainly using chicks and ducklings. However, research shows that exercises where a chick or duckling 'imprints' on a human can lead to animal welfare problems, including difficulties in weaning the animals from human dependency and social dysfunction.

For chickens housed at a school, is VSAEC approval required to use the eggs for cooking or selling to the local community?

VSAEC approval is not required if normal husbandry practices are used for chicken care and the production of eggs for consumption. For further information refer to Food safety for Egg Producers

I notice there are no VSAEC pre-approved chicken hatching activities on the Approval and Reporting System. Can we use chicken hatching activities in my school?

Yes, however, before a chicken hatching activity can commence, schools will need to apply for approval to VSAEC through the Approval and Reporting system. All teaching activities involving the use of animals must be guided by the 3Rs (Replace, Reduce, Refine). See Polices and Guidelines - the 3Rs