The Use of Animals in Teaching and Schools

Animals are used in teaching for a variety of reasons. Most classroom animal use in New Zealand involves family pets brought to school for simple observation and behaviour studies and for learning the responsibilities of humane care. Birds, cats, chickens, cows, dogs, eels, fish, frogs, goats, guinea pigs, horses, mice, mud crabs, rabbits, rats and sheep are among the animals used in New Zealand schools.

Attitudes towards animals are formed early in life. For many students school may be the first place where they gain experience on how to handle and look after animals. The use of animals in schools provides students the opportunity to:

  • Have a shared pet.
  • Respect animals as living organisms.
  • Learn about animal welfare and how animals’ needs must be met at all times.
  • Observe the complete life history of an animal.
  • Identify and investigate the range of environmental, physiological and behavioural factors influencing living animals.
  • Understand the complexity of environmental interactions affecting animals.

Use of animals in schools must comply with the approved Code of Ethical Conduct of the New Zealand Association of Science Educators (NZASE). This code covers early childhood centres, kindergartens, schools (both teachers and students), and home-schooled students and their families and is administered by the NZASE on behalf of the Ministry of Education. An Animal Ethics Committee has been established under this Code. It approves appropriate projects and is able to provide advice on when approval is necessary.

Any animals that are housed at schools must be well cared for at all times, including on weekends and holidays, in accordance with this guide or the relevant code of welfare for the species. Students should not be allowed to take animals home unless there is a clear, written undertaking from a parent or guardian that the animals will be cared for adequately and responsibly.

There are several resources available to help students care for animals click here for further information.