Activities with rats

Information about the approved activities that may be carried out using rats in schools.

Rats – 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 rats.

Rats – non-invasive measurement

Approved activities Category
Body weight 2
Growth 2
Body proportions 2
Measurement of mild dietary effects — palatability 2

Students observe rats, noting details of their growth, weighing them and measuring body proportions. Prior training and experience in capture, restraint and handling must occur to ensure that the rats are restrained for the shortest possible period. Only rats that are accustomed to handling should be used for measurements. Routine weighing and measurements should always take place to ensure rats do not become overweight as this is a common problem with caged rats.


For small animals such as mice and rats, the only dietary effect that should be investigated is the palatability of different foods. As rats are small in size, it is unacceptable to vary or restrict the quantity or quality of the feed provided.

Rat breeding activities

Rats – breeding

Approved activities Category
Breeding of mice or other appropriate animal in the classroom 2
The appropriate care of classroom pets 2

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.

The male and female should be separated prior to the female giving birth. Offspring should be separated into single sex groups at weaning to prevent inbreeding and unwanted pregnancies.

Humane treatment of sick, diseased and injured animals.

Rats – euthanasia

Approved activities Category
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.


Rats may be sold to other schools or appropriate homes. It is not acceptable to kill animals as a form of disposal if too many animals have been bred.

The breeding of rats for the purpose of dissection is not permitted.

Frozen or preserved rats may be purchased from biological suppliers for the purpose of dissection.

Carcases must be disposed of in accordance with local council regulations.

Keeping clear and accurate records.

Rats – record keeping

Teachers who use animals must keep clear and accurate records of:

  • The number of rats owned or kept at the school
  • Identification of individual animals (by description of markings or photos)
  • The dates and sources of acquisition of each rat
  • Disposal details and dates for each animal
  • Dietary details for rats
  • 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 are 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.

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