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Guidelines for teachers, educators and students

Can I use animals in my classroom or early childhood education (ECE) centre without ethical approval?

The following occasions usually do not require ethical approval:

  • Bringing a pet to the school or ECE centre. Visits from pets should preferably be planned because, depending on such circumstances as the type of pet and the duration of stay, the animal may need water, shelter, food, and/or a secure place away from children/students where it can be kept when it is not needed during the day.
  • Pet days. When pets are brought to the school or ECE centre for pet day, teachers, students, and children should:
    • provide them with water
    • ensure that they do not have food withheld in an attempt to make them more obedient during judging
    • provide shelter from the hot sun or from bad weather
    • provide advice that they should be transported to and from the ECE centre/school in secure enclosures, such as cages or pet boxes for small animals and secure, non-slippery trailers or truck decks for lambs and calves
    • remember that some pets will not be used to crowds and may find it stressful to be surrounded by lots of students and children wanting to pat them and high noise levels from people and loudspeakers
    • if they are to be tied up, check that no animals can come to harm. For example, dogs should be kept far enough apart to prevent fights, and livestock should not be tethered near poisonous plants or on steep slopes.
  • Classroom and ECE centre pets. Keeping an animal in a classroom or ECE centre as a pet and/or for observational purposes does not require ethical approval. However, teachers should:
    • make prior arrangements about long-term care before any animal is obtained
    • provide proper care and facilities (see Animal Care )
    • provide for adequate weekend and holiday care.
  • Classroom and ECE studies involving animals including such activities as:
    • observing animal behaviour and movement, body structure and function, growth (including regular weighing to chart a growth curve), diet preferences, and food treats
    • preference testing of cage equipment used to enrich the environment of the animal, for example, tubes, platforms, and ramps
    • learning animal care and handling techniques and taking responsibility for the care of an animal
    • using breeding pairs to teach reproduction and development. Before breeding animals, make suitable arrangements for the placement of offspring.
  • Doing dissections and experiments involving non-living animal tissue, with dissection material obtained from reputable sources. However, note the requirement(s) in Safety and Science: A Guidance Manual for New Zealand Schools, for dissection material to be obtained from reputable sources.

The following occasion may require ethical approval, depending on what is involved:

  • Science fair projects in schools. Although science fair projects might not be undertaken on school premises, teachers should nevertheless ensure that students are informed at the outset of the ethical considerations of using any living creature. Students should also be made aware that special procedures must be followed if an animal manipulation (as legally defined) is planned as part of the project.
  • Classroom and ECE studies involving animals other than those listed above.

The following flow chart should help you to decide whether ethical approval is needed.

Flowchart explanation

The flowchart shows you how to decide whether you need ethical approval to use animals. The first question is, "Will the animal be alive when I use it?".

If you answer "Yes" you follow the arrows to the left of the chart. The first question asks you to check whether it is an animal under the legal definition of the Animal Welfare Act 1999. If you answer "Yes" the next question asks if the animal is to be used for teaching, research, experimentation, diagnostic toxicity or potency testing, or the production of biological agents. If the answer is "Yes" then you are informed 'Ethical approval is required'.

If at any stage you answer "No" you follow the arrows to the right and you are informed 'Ethical approval is not required'.


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