Animal use in research and teaching

Our vision is to make a positive difference in the lives of animals. We promote practices to ensure ethical obligations are met when handling animals on campus and in teaching and research.

Animals at OP Header

What we do

We encourage and ensure animal welfare practices are followed and upheld in all activities involving animals. This means that all legal and ethical obligations are met while using animals in teaching, research or events on campus. We promote the Five Domains Model of animal welfare and fear free handling to maintain a high standard of ethical animal use.

Te Pūkenga is a signatory to the ANZCCART Openness Agreement on Animal Research and Teaching in New Zealand. As part of the Te Pukenga network, we follow the key five commitments to allow transparency and openness about the use of animals in research and teaching.

We have set up practices that help us meet our animal welfare vision. These are:

  • Following the 3 R’s ( (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) framework
  • Incorporating simulation model teaching
  • Adhering to Animal Use Protocols (AUPs)
  • Allowing transparency through animal use statistics

The 3 R’s

The 3 Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) provide a framework which is used to ensure animals used for research, testing and teaching are treated humanely. The 3 Rs are included in the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

  • Replace animals with non-sentient or non-living alternatives.
  • Reduce the numbers to the minimum necessary.
  • Refine techniques to minimise harm to the animal and maximise the benefits.
  • Adding a fourth R for Respect has been agreed to in principle by The National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) and they will continue to discuss the concept.

In 2016 Otago Polytechnic’s School of Veterinary Nursing won The National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) Three Rs Award for their commitment to implementing strategies which replace, reduce and refine animal use across their teaching programmes while still meeting the needs of their students.

Incorporating simulation model in teaching

We employ teaching dentistry skills using real equipment on a simulation model. The learning experience is made as realistic as possible by the teachers where learners are expected to present themselves and behave as they would in a veterinary clinic. This includes caring for the models as if they were living animals.

Taking blood samples can also be practised using simulation models. Many Veterinary Nursing and Rural Animal Technician skills can be taught using simulation models. Learning the skill with a model means the learner is well prepared for working with living animals.

Below are photos of learners practising dentistry, taking blood samples, administering an intramuscular injection to a dog and disbudding calves with models

Animal Use Protocols (AUPs)

Before an animal is used for teaching or research purposes on our campus, an Animal Use Protocol must be approved by the local Animal Ethics Committee at the University of Otago. The AUP describes the number of animals that will be used, how they will be used, why the teaching or research is important and what will be done to ensure the welfare of the animal is a priority. The Animal Ethics Committee will approve the AUP when the benefits of the teaching or research outweigh the likely harm to the animal and there is evidence that the 3 Rs have been applied. This is in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

Further information about the Animal Ethics Committee at the University of Otago can be found on their website.

Currently Otago Polytechnic holds two approved Animal Use Protocols, both within the School of Veterinary Nursing. One covers teaching of our companion animal programmes and the other covers teaching of our rural animal programme.

Animal use statistics

Animal Use Statistics is a key part of the Openness Agreement as it is where we make the number of animals used for teaching (and their species) available to the public. The information allows transparency and shows how many animals were used for teaching each year, and the level of manipulation they were exposed to.

Here is the School of Veterinary Nursing animal manipulation for 2021. Manipulation is when an animal is exposed to something different from its normal experience.


Species Number of Animals Grading of Manipulation



Little impact



Little impact



No impact



No impact



Little impact



Little impact



Little impact


Information about the recording of animal use statistics, including grading of manipulations, can be found in MPI’s document “Animal use statistics guidance”.

Examples of animal use and benefits

One of the skills taught in the New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care programme is performing a general health exam on a companion animal. Learners submit a video of themselves performing this skill as part of an assessment. They are encouraged to use one of their own pets or an animal belonging to a friend or family member.

The reason for this is to reduce the stress on the animal as much as possible - the animal is in its home environment and being handled by someone they are familiar with. The importance of making the experience positive for the animal by using treats, praise and gentle handling is taught throughout the programme.

Having regular general health checks means abnormal findings are detected early and veterinary care can be sought. Being able to perform a general health exam is an important skill for animal care students and is something they will use when working with animals in various animal facilities such as boarding kennels and shelters.

This is an example of a general health exam video.

While studying the New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology – Rural Animal Technician programme learners submit video evidence of themselves performing different skills as part of their clinical skills assessments. It is important that they are competent in these skills to be able to work as a Rural Animal Technician. The welfare of the animals is always a priority and low stress handling is taught throughout the programme.

This is an example of a hoof trimming video assessment.

We believe in continuous improvement

Over the years improvements have been made to ensure all animals used for teaching experience a high standard of welfare. One area that is currently being reviewed is the way animal use is recorded.

While recording animal use in the classroom has always been done well there are inconsistencies with the recording of animal use by learners in their homes. It is also important to raise awareness of the requirement to record animal use when learners are practising their skills.

As a result of increasing awareness and improving the recording of animal use it is expected that the number of animals used statistics will increase.

Animals at Otago Polytechnic (OP) committee

The Animals at OP committee ensures that all legal and ethical obligations are met when animals are used in teaching, research and events, including those for general wellness, at Otago Polytechnic.

The committee also provides support to groups wanting to use animals to ensure animal welfare is to the highest standard.

Contact us

We're happy to answer any questions you may have about animal use in research and teaching.