Animal observation and handling


Guideline review date: November 2016

The CARA planner (DOC, 423KB) must be used in conjunction with this guideline to determine additional risk hazards and controls within school-specific circumstances.

Activity scope

This guideline relates to student observation and handling of animals and animal remains such as bones or skins in non-laboratory or non-clinical settings as a curriculum activity. This includes, but is 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.

Low risk: Activities with no contact or minimal contact with animals where the threat of injury, bites, stings or scratches being inflicted is minimal (e.g. observation of animals in their natural surroundings, in zoos or registered wildlife parks); low impact care and handling of classroom pets and small domesticated animals; and handling of exhibited animals under supervision.
Medium risk: Routine non-invasive husbandry procedures with low impact on the animal concerned (e.g. grooming, cleaning of cages, non-invasive measurement of body weight); working in environments with medium risk of transmission of zoonoses (e.g. dusty cattle yards); and handling of animals where injury requiring minor first aid treatment is likely.
High risk: Moderate to high impact husbandry procedures requiring animal restraint and which may cause stress to animals (e.g. administering topical livestock treatments, mustering, cane toad collection); and procedures with high risk of transmission of zoonoses or where injury requiring medical treatment is possible (e.g. collection of venomous arachnids).

All requirements are necessary for the activity to be conducted.

Supervision requirements

Hazards and controls

If any listed control measure below cannot be met:

  • modify the activity (or elements of it)


  • identify and implement alternative control measures to meet or exceed the level of safety.

Alternative or additional considerations, hazards and control measures must be included in the planning process.

Before the activity

Hazards Control measures
Considering environmental conditions

Remain aware of the allergen and disease risks associated with dust, dry matter and airborne organisms (e.g. Q fever (PDF, 415KB))

Accessing facilities and using equipment

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

Ensure animals, especially those in the wild, are handled 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

Additionally for medium and high risk activities: 

    • available for immediate reference (near to where chemicals are used/stored)
    • less than 5 years old
  • correctly label and securely store all chemicals according to storage compatibilities in the SDS in a cool, dry area, away from general student use
Managing student considerations

Ensure staff and students are aware of the potential disease transmission risks associated with the animal or animal part being handled

Ensure staff and students are aware that exposure to animal faeces, body fluids, birth products, or enclosures contaminated with these materials can expose them to disease risks

Establish a class procedure in case an animal escapes or is unexpectedly encountered in the field or school grounds. This procedure would relate to the:

  • anticipated class reaction
  • location (e.g. classroom, farmyard or bush)
  • capture equipment
  • particular animal or type of animal

During the activity

Hazards Control measures
Accessing facilities and using equipment

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

Constantly monitor the animal for distress, pain or injury resulting from the activity to assess its ongoing suitability for the activity

Managing student considerations

Instruct students in appropriate low-stress handling techniques for the particular animal or species

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

Assess the capacity of individual students to handle and restrain an animal using low-stress handling techniques

Additionally for medium and high risk activities:

  • as relevant, ensure students are instructed in the appropriate storage and administration of veterinary medicines and chemical treatments

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Last updated 08 March 2021