Use of animals for teaching in veterinary schools


Ratification Date: 20 Jul 2023


The use of animals in the teaching of veterinary science is essential for development of skilled veterinary graduates.


Graduates in veterinary science need to be skilled in their handling and management of all domestic species, including examination, diagnosis and treatment of conditions. This is essential to ensure best outcomes for animals and their owners.

The use of live animals in the teaching of veterinary science is generally subject to requirements under the Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes 8th Edition,1 (the Code). The Code promotes the principles of reduction, refinement and replacement, and requires any use of live animals to have prior approval from a properly constituted and approved animal ethics committee. The exception to this requirement occurs in clinical settings where animals may be used for teaching in the course of their diagnosis, treatment and other veterinary care.

Student training is also dependent on, and enhanced by, the use of ethically-sourced cadavers.

Veterinary students need access to animals to learn about their behaviour, physiology and anatomy and in order to develop skills associated with examination and treatment.

Many clinical skills, including manipulative and surgical procedures, can be initially taught and practiced using cadavers, teaching mannequins, computer models and virtual reality training tools. The incorporation of these alternatives into the teaching regime can result in better educational outcomes than using live animals alone. Some hands-on skills, including clinical examination, anaesthetic and surgical technique, require the use of live animals. These may only be achieved in part by involvement in clinical cases at university veterinary teaching hospitals, extramural clinical placements, and participation in shelter desexing clinics.

There are four potential sources of live animals currently used for teaching veterinary students in Australian universities:

  1. Animals seen in a clinical practice situation, when supervised by a registered veterinarian. This includes both companion animal and livestock clinical practice.
  2. Animal shelter desexing clinics, also fully supervised by registered veterinarians.
  3. Groups of animals of different species purchased and maintained by veterinary schools for teaching animal handling and clinical skills.
  4. Animals owned by staff or students.


Procedures may be carried out provided the following is in place:

  1. All procedures must be performed under the direct supervision of suitably qualified personnel. Procedures that are limited to veterinarians must be performed under the direct supervision of a registered veterinarian, in line with state and territory legislation.
  2. With respect to clinical cases of client-owned animals, involvement of veterinary students must be contingent upon fully informed client consent.
  1. Recovery surgeries (sterilisation procedures) may only occur on shelter animals that are to be rehomed, or in the course of fully supervised clinical placements, on owned animals with owner consent. Appropriate peri-operative care and pain relief must be employed in all cases.
  2. Where non-recovery surgeries using livestock or other species are utilised, animals are euthanised immediately after the surgery without regaining consciousness. All animals intended for use in this way should be submitted to a thorough clinical examination, and any animal found to be injured or diseased should be immediately euthanised and not subjected to further procedures. Direct supervision by appropriately experienced registered veterinarians is essential to ensure appropriate animal welfare is maintained throughout the entire peri-operative period.
  3. At all times, the welfare of the animal must be monitored and assured.


Veterinary schools should, wherever possible, use alternatives to live animals for initial teaching and practicing of manipulative skills. These alternatives include ethically-sourced cadavers, mannequins, models and computer simulations.  The AVA encourages further uptake of these alternatives as more become developed and refined.

Veterinary student participation in clinical cases (companion animal and livestock) under direct supervision of registered veterinarians is encouraged.

Notwithstanding the use of alternatives to live animals and clinical cases in veterinary training, it is essential that training in clinical skills is performed on animals used specifically for teaching under the close supervision of suitably qualified and experienced university staff. This ensures the optimal welfare of animals under the care of new graduates and the health and safety of graduate veterinarians.

Use of live animals for surgery and anaesthetic training ideally is done in collaboration with shelter desexing clinics; this will assist in development of soft tissue handling techniques, anaesthesia, and other aspects of peri-operative management applicable to recovery surgeries and day-one competencies of the veterinary graduate.

The use of animals in veterinary training should also be adopted as an opportunity to teach welfare and ethics to veterinary students.



  1. National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes. https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/publications/australian-code-care-and-use-animals-scientific-purposes 2013.

Other relevant policies and position statements