Frequently asked questions

What is a 'scientific purpose'?

Scientific purpose is defined by the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes as activities performed to acquire, develop, or demonstrate knowledge or techniques in any area of science, including teaching, field trials, agricultural and environmental studies. Therefore, if animals are used for explicit teaching purposes in order to achieve an educational outcome in science, animal ethics approval is required.

This also applies to standard husbandry procedures and normal farming practices if the animals are being used for explicit teaching purposes.

Refer to categories of animal use activities for examples.

Scientific purposes also include using any animal or the remains of an animal that was killed for the purposes of any of the above reasons. Anyone using animals for scientific purposes must be registered with Biosecurity Queensland - Animal welfare and ethics and obtain approval from an animal ethics committee.

What factors should I consider before seeking animal ethics approval?

It is the teacher's responsibility to provide a pedagogical justification for any learning activity that involves the use of animals. The use of animals must provide an added component to the learning that is not trivial or available in other ways, and there must be evidence to support this position.

It is essential that consideration is given to using alternatives to animals, reducing the number of animals used and refining the proposed techniques to be used in lessons to reduce the impact on animals.

Does a classroom pet need animal ethics approval?

If the classroom pet is being used for explicit teaching of science outcomes, then animal ethics approval would be required. It can sometimes be difficult to discriminate between Category 1 and Category 2 activities involving classroom pets.

As an example, if you have a fish tank in your classroom and children are involved only in feeding the animals and keeping the tank clean, then this would be considered a Category 1 activity and would not require animal ethics approval. If, however, the environmental conditions for the animals were being varied to observe and measure the effects upon the fish, this would require animal ethics approval.

Does an egg-hatching activity require approval?

Yes. Any animal egg-hatching activity for scientific purposes requires approval. Refer to categories of animal use activities for the definition of animals and categories of activities requiring animal ethics approval.

The Poultry egg-hatching standard operating procedure outlines the Queensland Schools Animal Ethics Committee's approved procedure when conducting a poultry egg-hatching activity.

Is it true that I may not need Queensland Schools Animal Ethics Committee (QSAEC) approval for certain dissection activities?

Yes, in certain circumstances. QSAEC approval is not required to use the remains of an animal if no aspect of the animal's life and death were altered for the scientific purpose, for example, animals bred for commercial food production, animals that have died naturally, or animal organs sourced from butchers. These industries operate under strict work health and safety requirements so animals should be free of disease or infection if they are being onsold for the purposes of dissection.

Although no approval is required to dissect animals that have died naturally, dissecting road kill or other dead animals may pose risks. Animals with some diseases or infections may show no signs of illness, and some illnesses (e.g. Q fever) may be transmitted via aerosols (wet particles) via dissection. The risks to staff and student health must always outweigh any proposed benefits of conducting such an activity, despite the opportunity for a teachable moment. For these reasons, although animal ethics approval is not required, this practice is not encouraged.

Prior to conducting an activity, a risk assessment should take into account any risks to staff and student health.

For further information regarding the use of dead animals, refer to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website.

All users of dead animals for scientific purposes are encouraged to consider the purpose of the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001, as stated in section 3, to promote responsible care and use of animals and ensure the use of animals for scientific purposes is accountable, open and responsible.

Do I need animal ethics approval if I source my rats/mice from a pet food supplier?

Yes and no – depending on certain circumstances.

Scientific use of animals bred or killed for scientific purposes requires animal ethics approval, in accordance with the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes.

If a pet shop or online pet food supplier supplies rats/mice which have been bred (for example) for reptile food rather than for scientific purposes, animal ethics approval is not obligatory as the activity uses the remains of an animal where no aspect of the animal's life and death was altered for a scientific purpose.

However, if schools regularly choose pet stores or online pet food suppliers to purchase animals for dissection, rather than purchasing from biological suppliers, they may be (inadvertently) encouraging pet food suppliers to breed animals to meet school demands. In effect, it could be argued that the lives and deaths of the animals were altered for scientific purposes.

Although this is a matter for the suppliers with respect to meeting their legislative obligations, schools should consider the potential impact of their decisions in such cases. In the interests of open and accountable scientific use of animals, the preferred course of action for schools sourcing rats/mice from pet food suppliers is to use the Rats and mice standard operating procedure (PDF, 375KB) to submit an activity notification for QSAEC approval.

How do I gain animal ethics approval?

You must not conduct any scientific animal use activity until an approval number is issued to you from the QSAEC.

Follow the Animal ethics approval process (PDF, 660KB) to gain approval.

What is my Scientific User Registration number?

Any school that uses animals (or causes animals to be used) in an activity performed for scientific purposes must register with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Visit their website for full details.
The registration number for all Queensland state schools is 102. For non-state schools, contact your local diocese or governing body (where appropriate) to check if a registration number exists.

What is a standard operating procedure (SOP)?

A SOP contains activities that have already been considered and accepted by the QSAEC as being ethically sound. It details best practice methods for using the animals detailed in the SOP for scientific purposes. The SOPs have been approved by the QSAEC and are reviewed by the committee at least every 3 years.

How do I know that my application has been approved?

The QSAEC will send you an approval number via email. Once this is received you may conduct the activity. The approval number must be recorded on your school's animal activity register.

How long will it take for me to get my approval number?

Approval to use a SOP can take up to 5 working days after the Animal Ethics Officer receives the signed Application/Activity notification form (i.e. the final page of each SOP).

If you are making a full application because no SOP exists for the species you have selected or if you are requesting a variation to the SOP, the QSAEC will make its decision at its next scheduled meeting. Responses to applicants are sent 3 to 5 working days after the meeting date.

What methods are acceptable for euthanasing cane toads?

The 3 approved methods of euthanasing cane toads are detailed in the Cane toad standard operating procedure (PDF, 285KB):

  • use of Hopstop
  • refrigeration followed by freezing
  • refrigeration followed by use of clove oil and freezing.

In accordance with ANZCCART guidelines (PDF, 462KB), the use of Dettol or Aqui-S are not considered to be humane methods of euthanasia.

Why is chicken imprinting not an approved activity in a SOP?

Chicken imprinting is not a pre-approved activity covered by a SOP because of the potential adverse effects to chicks (i.e. survival in their natural environment after an experiment due to social and behavioural changes), and the uncontrolled nature of these experiments where students take the chick/s home.

What paperwork do I need to complete as part of my approval?

Refer to Record-keeping and reporting for your reporting obligations.

A completion report must be received by the QSAEC annually in order for the approval to remain valid. If you do not submit a completion report each year, you will not have a current approval to conduct the activity.

What happens if there are changes to a SOP during a period of approval?

If the QSAEC determines that activities pre-approved in a SOP are no longer considered ethically justifiable and modifications are necessary, holders of current approvals under those standard operating procedures will be advised of the modification to their approval and the date of effect that the amendment becomes operational.

Last updated 24 July 2020