Animal observation and handling


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Guideline review date: 28 October 2021

​This guideline is provided to support schools in implementing the managing risks in school curriculum activities procedure.

The CARA planner must be used for the specific school context in conjunction with this guideline considering additional risks, hazards and controls and including environmental, facility, equipment and student considerations.​

For activities beyond the scope of this guideline, complete a CARA record using the CARA generic template.

Activity scope

This guideline relates to student participation in activities involving observing and handling animals and/or animal remains (e.g. bones, skins) to support curriculum delivery within, and external to, a laboratory or classroom. Such activities include, but not limited to, care of classroom pets, livestock husbandry activities, collecting of frog spawn and observation of animals in their natural surroundings or of exhibited animals.

Depending on the scope of this activity, other risk assessments may be required when planning. Curriculum activities encompassing more than one CARA guideline (e.g. biological activities, Agricultural activities (stockyards)​​) must comply with the requirements of all CARA guidelines appropriate to the activity.

For curriculum activities involving marine animals (e.g. fishing), consult the marine organism activities guideline.

For activities conducted at a non-Department of Education venue, and/or when engaging external expertise, request written risk assessment advice and attach it to this CARA record.

For activities conducted off-site, schools must comply with the ​school excursions procedure.​​

Risk level​​

​Low risk
Activities at low risk locations (e.g. classroom, behind barriers at zoos) and/or with low risk equipment (e.g. grooming equipment, low hazard consumer chemicals) and/or with animals that pose insignificant risk to most people (e.g. small domesticated animals such as fish in a tank, exhibited animals under supervision).
Medium risk
Activities at medium risk locations (e.g. school oval, chicken coop) and/or with medium risk equipment (e.g. electrical equipment) and/or animals that may cause a minor injury or illness (e.g. larger domesticated animals such as dogs, sheep).
High risk
Activities at high risk locations (e.g. a national park, stockyard) and/or with high risk equipment (e.g. livestock husbandry equipment) and/or animals that may cause a serious injury (e.g. horses, bees, venomous animals).​

Activity requirements

If any requirement cannot be met, the activity must not occur.

If any other safety recommendation cannot be met, modify the activity (or elements of it) and/or identify and use the hierarchy of controls to implement alternative control measures to meet or exceed the minimum safety standard.

Schools must comply with animal welfare legislation. Consult the department's animals in education webpage. Comply with animals in Queensland state schools procedure when handling live anim​​als.

Include any additional information used to support student safety in the activity (e.g. resourc​​es from Standard operating procedures from Queensland Schools Animal Ethics Committee's forms a​nd publications, published activities or online risk assessment tools) on the CARA record.

Schools must prevent and manag​e infection control in accordance with the Infection control procedure. Utilise the Infection control guideline ​for practical implementation advice.

Obtain any approv​​als, permits or safety advice from the local authority (e.g. property owners), if relevant.

Parent consent (DOCX, 306KB) is required for all activities conducted off-site and for extreme risk activities conducted on-site. It is strongly recommended for high risk activities conducted on-site.


Principals make final supervision decisions for the activity. Sufficient adult supervision must be provided to manage the activity safely (including emergency situations).

For activities with students with a medical condition or disability that may impact on safety during the activity, consultation with parents is required prior to allocating supervision to determine the impact of students' medical condition or disability on safety during the activity.

The number of adult supervisors required to fulfil emergency and supervision roles must consider the nature of the activity, students' ages, abilities and specialised learning, access and/or health needs.

Before the activity, all adult supervisors must be familiar with the contents of the CARA record.

During the activity, all adult supervisors:

  • must be readily identifiable
  • must closely monitor students with health support needs
  • must comply with control measures from the CARA record and adapt as hazards arise
  • must suspend the activity if the conditions become unfavourable (e.g. extreme temperatures, erratic animal behaviour).

Follow the relevant standard operating procedures from Queensland Schools Animal Ethics Committee's forms and publications to maintain the duty of care associated with any use of an animal.

Do not handle animals that cannot be positively identified (e.g. spiders, snakes) and managed safely by a qualified adult supervisor. Refer to Department of Environment and Science and the Queensland Museum's dangerous insects and common and dangerous snakes for information.

All animals that cannot be positively identified by a qualified adult supervisor are to be considered potentially venomous.

Unfamiliar activities (e.g. from online sources) must be trialled without students to identify foreseeable hazards and plan safety processes. Do not proceed if risks of the activity outweigh educational outcomes.

Supervisor qualifications

Principals make final decisions in determining supervisor capability (competence, relevance and currency) and are responsible for encouraging and enabling school-based activity supervisors to raise their qualifications to improve safety standards.

All adult supervisors must comply with the working with children authority—Blue Cards procedure and be able to identify, and respond to, risks or hazards that may emerge during the activity.

A registered teacher must be appointed to maintain overall responsibility for the activity.

At least one adult supervisor is required to be a registered teacher or other adult supervisor working under the direct supervision of a registered teacher, with competence (knowledge and skills) in handling animals relevant to the level of risk identified.

Facilities and equipment

Location must be suitable for the activity being undertaken to ensure safe participation and that safety rules and procedures can be followed. Undertake a reconnaissance of new or infrequently used locations to ascertain suitability.

Field guides (e.g. Queensland Museum app), charts and/or keys must be consulted to correctly identify species.

For curriculum activities involving chemicals, consult the chemicals in curriculum activities notes. Note that all chemicals in schools must be managed in accordance with the department's chemical management procedure.

All electrical equipment in schools must be managed in accordance with the department's guide to managing electrical equipment in departmental schools and workplaces.

Consult chemicals in curriculum activities for support in assessing the risks of chemicals used with/by students in curriculum activities.

If a CARA record is required in OneSchool, a summary of chemicals, plant, equipment and/or materials used in the activity must be provided by entering directly onto the CARA record in OneSchool or by attaching a summary. Sample templates are provided on chemicals in curriculum activities and plant, equipment and materials in curriculum activities.

Participants must wear personal protective equipment as relevant (e.g. enclosed footwear, safety gloves).

Other personal protective equipment appropriate to the activity may include lab standard eye protection, appropriate face protection (e.g. mask to protect against airborne toxins).

First aid equipment and consumables, as required. All emergency equipment and processes (e.g. eye wash unit) must be functional.

Clean up equipment as necessary (e.g. dustpan, waste bags, spill kit, disinfectants).

 Hazards and controls

Further to those listed, include any additional hazards and control measures considering the local context of the activity.

Environmental hazards Control measures

Animal bites/stings
Stings, poisoning, infections

Advise students not to handle animals until explicitly instructed by the qualified adult supervisor.

Avoid deliberate contact with wild animals. Respond appropriately to approaching wildlife.

Treat all wounds and bites immediately for Infection control.

If participating outside:

  • adhere to established practices regarding the use of insect repellent, outlined in insect viruses and allergies
  • continually assess threat of wildlife appropriate to the location. Immediately move the participants to a safe location if dangerous or unidentified wildlife are detected or suspected. 

Biological hazards
Fluids (e.g. blood, saliva)

Remain aware of the allergen and disease risks associated with dust, dry matter and airborne organisms (e.g. Q fever).

Implement appropriate handling and protective measures relevant to the route of transmission of potential zoonoses as outlined in appendix 1 of Animal contact guidelines.

Establish and follow hygiene guidelines when handling animals, their food and water, and when cleaning out cages and pens.

Handle animals as little as possible, using protective equipment (e.g. leather gloves) when appropriate.

Ensure all animals are screened thoroughly for parasites (e.g. ticks and fleas) and students are warned of the potential hazards, symptoms and course of remedial action.

Ensure animal remains (e.g. skeletons) are free of body tissue prior to handling.

Wash hands and other contaminated areas of the body with soap and water before leaving the activity site.

Clean tools and equipment following use to reduce the risk of contamination or accidental exposure to biological hazards.

Dispose of hazardous biological materials using a double-bagging technique.

Environmental conditions
Weather, surfaces, surrounds

Constantly monitor and assess the animal for distress, pain or injury resulting from the activity. Assess, and ensure staff and students are aware of, the likely impact of environmental conditions (e.g. noise, adverse weather) on the behaviour of a particular animal.

When participating outside:

  • The school's sun safety strategy must be followed
  • Assess weather (Bureau of Meteorology) and environmental conditions prior to participation.
  • Follow the managing excessive heat in schools guidelines when participating in very hot or extreme heat conditions.
  • Ensure drink breaks occur regularly. Make water available for individual participants between drink breaks.
  • Ensure warm clothing is prepared for cold weather conditions. Monitor participants for cold related illness (e.g. hypothermia).

When participating at night:

  • Provide appropriate lighting/illumination.
Facilities and equipment hazards Control measures

Faulty or dangerous equipment

Conduct regular checks of agricultural infrastructure for safety hazards or broken equipment (fences, water troughs, crush, gates, etc.).

Check equipment for damage before and during the activity.


All chemicals required for the decontamination processes must be arranged in advance and be readily available.

Instruct students in the appropriate storage and administration of veterinary medicines and chemical treatments, as relevant.

Manual handling

Assess the size and temperament of, and the potential for injury by, the animals being observed and/or handled.

Use correct manual handling processes when lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying.

Use aids for safe handling, lifting and carrying (e.g. guards, safety steps and mobile trolleys), as appropriate.


Schools must maintain, store, transport and dispose of waste materials appropriately (e.g. use clinical and related waste guideline). Such materials include, but not limited to, animal wastes and used equipment and instruments (e.g. gloves, husbandry disposables).

Dispose of waste as soon as possible after the activity.

Student considerations Control measures

Student issues
Student numbers, special needs, high risk behaviours, medical conditions, separation from the group

Remove accessories (e.g. jewellery, lanyards) before participating.

Ensure fingernails and hair and clothing (e.g. long hair, loose shirts) do not pose a hazard.

Instruct participants in appropriate low-stress handling techniques for the particular animal or species. Assess the capacity of individuals to handle and restrain an animal using low-stress handling techniques. Monitor participants for signs of fear and/or hesitancy.

Account for all equipment, chemicals and resources (e.g. matches, sharp tools) after the activity.

Additionally, for off-site activities:

Implement procedures (e.g. buddy system, roll marking mechanisms) to account for all participants.


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Last updated 13 July 2022