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Policy on animals for ECE centres and schools

It is recommended that if schools and early childhood education (ECE) centres are keeping animals, they should have an animals policy that has been approved by their board of trustees or ECE centre management. This policy must not contravene the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

To download the draft policy template, select from the following Word or PDF formats:

A draft policy, which may be adopted as is or adapted by individual ECE centres and schools, is provided as follows.

(Name) ECE centre/school caring for animals policy

_________ ECE centre/school recognises its legal obligations to those species defined as "animals" under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and its moral responsibilities with regard to other invertebrate animals studied or kept in _________ ECE centre/school.



1. The day-to-day care of all vertebrates, and some invertebrates, in the care of people and/or used in experiments and teaching will be governed by the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
2. All living creatures at _________ ECE centre/school will be treated with care and respect.
3. Responsibility for the welfare of animals in _________ ECE centre/school rests with the teacher involved and, ultimately, with the Principal and the Board of Trustees/ECE centre management.

Animals kept at _________ ECE centre/school will be provided with their five basic needs (sometimes expressed as the five freedoms).

  • Freedom from thirst, hunger, and malnutrition (including during weekends and holidays).
  • Freedom from discomfort and lack of shelter (by being provided with appropriate cages or containers that are properly ventilated and hygienic and do not allow exposure to extremes of noise, draughts, and sunlight).
  • Freedom from injury, disease, and parasite infestation (by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment). Diseased or injured animals will be treated promptly and will not be kept at _________ ECE centre/school until they have recovered. If this is not feasible, they will be humanely destroyed.
  • Freedom from distress (through proper care and handling).
  • Freedom to display their normal patterns of behaviour.
5. If appropriate care and facilities cannot be provided, animals will not be kept at _________ ECE centre/school.
6. Animals kept at _________ ECE centre/school will be kept in accordance with the conditions, relevant to the particular species, outlined in Section 3 of Caring for Animals, 2012. Species not covered by this section will not be kept/will be kept only if ______ (select the desired option and insert the circumstances or conditions that apply).
7. In the case of centre/classroom pets, prior arrangements about long-term care (including holiday care) will be made before any animals are kept at _________ ECE centre/school. When the animal is no longer required or is no longer able to be kept, appropriate arrangements will be made to return it to its natural habitat (in the case of a wild animal) or to find a suitable home for it. Non-native classroom pets will not be released into the wild under any circumstances. If appropriate arrangements cannot be made, the animal will be humanely destroyed by a veterinarian.
8. When animals are used for a specific study, the surviving animals will be returned to their natural habitat or home at the end of the study.
9. Animals captured on field trips will be returned to their habitat before children/students leave the area unless their proper care in _________ ECE centre/school has been prearranged.

Native animals:

  • will not be kept at _________ ECE centre/school,
  • will be kept only if ___________ (select the desired option and insert the circumstances or conditions that apply). Note that, under the Wildlife Act 1953, it is illegal to keep any species of native animal without a permit from the Department of Conservation.
11. Where the use of animals in any study (including science fair projects) involves a manipulation in accordance with the law, the study will be carried out in accordance with a code of ethical conduct approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries and with the prior approval of _________ (specify the name of an animal ethics committee that has been established in accordance with that code). (See Ethical approval to manipulate animals for information on animal ethics committees.)
Signed:_________ Position:_____________
Date:___________ Review date:_________