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Applying for Animal Ethics Approval

This page contains information about why you need to apply for ethics approval and how you can apply.


When do you need to consider applying for animal ethics approval?

You need to consider applying for animal ethics approval when using animals in teaching or in an investigation or experience when the animal is being ‘manipulated’. This means that you are changing the animal’s normal needs, like what it eats and drinks, where it lives/sleeps or things it does (like its type of toys) in some way. This type of change (manipulation) is when ethics approval is needed and is required under New Zealand’s law called the Animal Welfare Act.


Ethics approval means that a special group of people, such as science teachers and animal welfare experts have reviewed the way that your scientific experiment or investigation with animal(s) is being carried out. When they review it, they check that what is planned will not harm the animal(s) and its good health is maintained. If this group thinks that what is planned will not harm the animal(s), they will grant ethics approval.


Who might need to apply for animal ethics approval?

Any teacher and/or science technician using or caring for animals in a learning or class situation should check with the New Zealand Schools Animal Ethics Committee if they need approval.


Any student carrying out an investigation or experiment that involves animals should check if they need approval.

The Application Process

If you do need to apply for animal ethics approval for a teaching activity or for your science fair project, you need to complete a form and submit it to an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC). The New Zealand Association for Science Education has their own AEC for teachers, science technicians and students who can approve your application. For more information, visit the New Zealand Schools Animal Ethics website.


 In general, the AEC wants to ensure that the animals that you use will be well treated and subjected to the minimal amount of harm or disruption. All manipulations must be carried out under the umbrella of the animal welfare principles of the Three Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement).


When you are writing your animal ethics application, make sure you outline the benefits of carrying out the experiment or investigation and also fully consider the harm to the animal(s). The AEC will make a risk-benefit assessment. This means that if the risk of harm to the animals high (for example, the experiment is quite invasive) then the benefits must also be high (for example, the potential of a new medicine). However, if the risk is low (for example, playing music to your fish) then the potential benefit does not need to be very high (for example, it might help you and your class better understand how well fish hear). You also need to meet the normal husbandry requirements for the animal including providing food, shelter, warmth, safety and room to behave normally. Lastly, you need to show that you have considered the Three Rs animal welfare principles in the design of your experiment or investigation.




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