Activities with guinea pigs
Information about the approved activities that may be carried out using guinea pigs in schools.
Guinea pigs – introduction to activities
As required by the Animal Research Act, the Schools Animal Care and Ethics Committee have prepared a list of approved activities. These activities are those that may need to be carried out in the school setting and have been deemed appropriate, when carried out by a person with the appropriate skill and experience and educationally justified.
The activities have been organised into categories 1-5. The category reflects the potential impact on the animal and requires a greater justification and expertise of those carrying out the activity. Visit Categories of activities for further explanation.
Taking measurements from guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs – non-invasive measurement
Non-invasive measurement of:
To measure and monitor guinea pigs’ growth and weight in relation to age, students can set up weight/age and size/age charts for a number of animals and operate them over a period of 10 weeks. Use a pre-weighed container of appropriate size and appropriate scales and measuring tapes to determine overall length, girth and size of skull.
Prior training and experience in capture, restraint and handling is required. Guinea pigs should be restrained for the shortest possible period to reduce stress to the animals. To maintain identification of individual animals, use color-dye marking. Care must be taken when picking up pregnant sows. The appropriate holding technique must be used.
Guinea pigs husbandry practices.
Guinea pigs – husbandry
|Coat care and grooming||2|
Guinea pigs require some level of coat care depending on the type of coat. Long coated guinea pigs must be groomed regularly.
Guinea pigs have quite fast growing toenails and if they are kept on soft bedding material, their toenails will need to be clipped regularly as they will not get worn down. This should be done with a pair of very sharp animal nail clippers. Extreme care must be taken to only remove the end section of the nail, avoiding the blood vessel. Shining a bright light through the nail to locate the blood vessel is recommended before clipping. If the light cannot be kept on the nail while clipping, mark the vessel with a marker so that you know where to clip. If bleeding does occur, wipe the blood away and apply a quick-stop powder or, alternatively, flour. If there is only a small amount of bleeding, cotton wool can be held over the nail and pressure applied till bleeding stops.
Guinea pigs breeding activities.
Guinea pigs – breeding
|Breeding of appropriate animals in the school||3|
|The appropriate care of classroom pets
If breeding is to take place in a school there must be sufficient care, facilities, housing and space available for the extra animals. There must be a need for extra animals, or an appropriate plan for the disposal of surplus animals in place, prior to beginning this activity. If killing is the only disposal option, then the breeding program is not allowed.
Female guinea pigs exhibit post-partum oestrus and can mate and become pregnant within 12-24 hours after giving birth. To ensure this doesn’t happen, the male must be removed from the cage prior to the female giving birth. Offspring should be separated into single sex groups at weaning (3-4 weeks of age).
Humane treatment of sick, diseased and injured animals.
Guinea pigs – euthanasia
|Slaughter/euthanasia of stock||5|
Where an animal has become so sick, diseased or injured that recovery is unlikely or undesirable on humane grounds, euthanasia must be arranged with a local veterinarian.
Students are permitted to watch a post-mortem of an animal provided there is no disease risk posed.
Guinea pigs may be sold to other schools or to appropriate homes. It is not acceptable to kill animals as a form of disposal if too many animals have been bred.
Carcases must be disposed of in accordance with local council regulations.
Keeping clear and accurate records.
Guinea pigs – record keeping
Teachers who use animals must keep clear and accurate records of:
- The number of guinea pigs owned or kept at the school
- Identification of individual animals (by description of markings or photos)
- The dates and sources of acquisition of each guinea pig
- Disposal details and dates for each animal
- Dietary details for guinea pigs
- Complete breeding records
- The dates and types of husbandry practices carried out
- The name, dosage, batch number, expiry date, withholding period and dates of any chemicals administered
- Any accident, illness or injury involving school animals and the veterinary treatment provided (if required).
- Any significant occurrences that adversely affect the welfare of school animals, such as vandalism, outbreak of disease etc.
The type and format of the records maintained will vary from school to school and be dependent on the number of animals kept, number of staff involved in maintaining the records and the layout and location of the rooms used for housing the animals.
The minimum requirement is a daily diary that is accessible to all staff that is involved in the care and use of the animals.
Where there are several staff members involved in the care of animals it is essential that there is a mechanism for each staff member to document notes about the general health status of school animals and that these notes are available to all other staff members who may be involved in animal care.