Department of Education

Animal Ethics

Animal Ethics

Animal Ethics ‹ Animal Use Decisions

Animal Use Decisions

Categories of animal use

The SAEC has defined five categories for the use of animals in teaching. The categories, which are outlined below, are based on the level of impact to which animals are likely to be subjected.

Category 1 and 2 activities may be undertaken within an educational context, without prior approval by the SAEC, provided that procedures for the ethical sourcing, appropriate care and ongoing welfare of the animal are followed.  Schools must provide for the lifetime welfare of animals and their offspring, if relevant.

Any teaching activity in Categories 3, 4, or 5 requires an application to be prepared by the teacher, approved by the school or college principal and submitted to the SAEC through the online Animal Ethics system.   Use of animals in these circumstances must not, by law, begin until the teacher has received the SAEC Certificate of Approval for the activity.

The requirements for SAEC approval apply to all schools in Western Australia except in circumstances exempted by the Australian code for the care and use of animal for scientific purposes (8th ed 2013) (Code).  Section 4.17 of the Code provides that Animal Ethics Committee approval is not required for the training and application of agricultural extension work practices, or the training of students in veterinary science, veterinary nursing or animal technology where the animals are at their home property, the procedures would normally occur as part of routine management or veterinary clinical management and the teacher is competent to carry out the procedure.  However, any procedure additional to routine management may require approval.

Table 1: Categories of animal use with examples

Category of use Description Examples
Primary and secondary schools

agricultural colleges


Observational studies of animals in their normal environment. No direct contact by students.

Approval not required.

Studies that visually observe animals in their normal environment or habitat; no direct contact by students; no disruption to the animal’s normal activity.

Teachers and lecturers care for the animals so they need to be competent in the feeding and housing of the specific animal.  This may require teachers receiving training or expert support.

• Observation of normal behavioural activity by students, e.g. class pets (mice, caged birds, lizards, axolotls).

• Wildlife observation (e.g. identifying birds in the local park).

• Routine care, maintenance and feeding of animals by teachers or lecturers, e.g. class pets, laying hens in a coop.

• Identify breeds, types and characteristics of animals of commercial significance through visual observation.

• Wildlife identification and observation with no disruption to the animals.


Basic handling, feeding and care of mature animals.

Approval not required.

The animals are subject to normal handling, feeding and care, including grooming and training.

Simple measurement of animals is appropriate, but students should always be under teacher supervision when handling animals.

No breeding of animals except fish and invertebrates. If inadvertent breeding occurs, the SAEC must be notified regarding the care of the pregnant animal and young.

• Routine care, maintenance and feeding of animals by students, e.g. class pets, laying hens.

• Weighing and monitoring of growth, e.g. chickens.

• Measuring of body characteristics, e.g. tail length in mice.

• Breeding and growing fish (e.g. aquaponics).

• Animals kept as class pets, e.g. guinea pigs.

• Routine care and maintenance of domestic animals by students.

• Ageing by dentition.

• Handling and basic restraint of a range of animals such as dogs, cats, birds, reptiles.

• Leading or riding appropriately trained animals (e.g. horses).


Minor conscious disruption to animal’s conditions or behaviour. Monitoring and care of very young or vulnerable animals.

Prior approval by the SAEC is required.

This category includes planned breeding and chicken egg hatching activities.

The animals are subjected to minor intervention required for monitoring conditions and responses.  This may require restraint of the animals, but discomfort or stress is minimal.

Activities may involve changing the physical environment and monitoring the animals’ responses.

• Monitoring and care of very young or vulnerable animals e.g. day old chicks up to 5 weeks old.

• Controlled breeding of small vertebrates, e.g. chicken egg hatching, breeding mice, rabbits, guinea pigs.

• Non-invasive experiments and investigations of animal responses, e.g. changing diet over the long term to compare growth rates.

• Changing physical conditions and monitoring animal responses, e.g. breathing rates and temperature.

• Wildlife studies involving trapping, tagging, measuring.

• Monitoring and care of young, sick, injured or rescued animals.

• Surgical preparation.

• Resuscitation



Invasive procedures; procedures involving pain, risk to the animal and/or recovery.

Prior approval by the SAEC is required.

The animals may be rendered unconscious by the teacher or lecturer with as little pain and distress as possible using local or general anaesthesia.

Depending on the procedure, pain may be minor or moderate and post-operative analgesia is recommended.

Such activities should be taught initially using alternatives to live animals, such as computer models, traditional models or parts of dead animals.

All such procedures must be carried out in accordance with the Act, Code and other relevant codes of practice. Activities in this category must always involve close supervision by an adequately-qualified person.

• This category is not  generally appropriate for primary and secondary schools.

• Administration of drugs.

• Taking tissue samples.

• Pregnancy detection by rectal examination.

Note: Procedures require approval when undertaking research or teaching and demonstrating to achieve competency requirements. They do not require approval if undertaken as part of routine management or veterinary clinical management of the animal.



Activities requiring the death of the animal.

Prior approval by the SAEC is required.

This category applies when animals are killed by people, such as teachers, veterinarians or laboratory technicians, for the specific purpose of educational instruction.

All such procedures must be carried out in accordance with all relevant laws, regulations and codes of practice.

Note on Dissections: Schools must obtain animals that have been euthanized by a licensed supplier for dissections.

• Teaching or demonstrating the slaughter of stock (in accordance with industry codes).

• Teaching or demonstrating humane killing of pest vertebrates to achieve competency requirements.

Animal Use Decisions

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