Public Policy: Animals in Primary/Secondary Education

Public Policy: Animals in Primary/Secondary Education

The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) appreciates that animals play an important role in educating children in and out of the classroom. These lessons can take a variety of forms, and the paramount concern should be that animal welfare is centric to the lesson. Massachusetts prohibits lessons in public schools that harm live animals, but this does not encompass many of the common uses.[1]ARL encourages school departments and teachers to choose lessons that do not result in harm of animals, and reinforce to students the importance of humane interaction with animals.


ARL opposes the use of animals for dissection purposes in primary and secondary education. Dissection of animals in schools is still pervasive in many curricula and is estimated to result in the death of millions of animals a year nationwide. These animals may be raised in inhumane circumstances or taken from natural environments, with their fate certain death under the guise of education. In Massachusetts, students who choose not to partake in these activities are able to substitute an alternative method.[2]Technology now allows students to see virtual depictions of animals without causing unnecessary breeding and death. These depictions can save school departments money, allowing repeated use. Less common, but equally humane, are life-like models that provide a tangible option. ARL supports the use of these lessons over the use of animals.

Live Animals in the Classroom

Animals are often used to show the life cycle of animals to children, as often seen with chick hatching exercises or classroom pets. Classrooms are not good habitats or homes for animals; they are not designed with the needs of animals in mind, and may not have proper temperature, lighting, or noise considerations. Even the most well-meaning teachers and students may create unnecessary stress for the animal. In the classroom and outside of it, rough handling and inattention can be life-threatening for animals in these habitats. Additionally, the school calendar does not lend to being friendly to animal care. Schools are designed to be open for limited hours, and have frequent breaks throughout the year. Summer vacation and extended breaks can result in these animals ending up in a shelter, adding unnecessarily to the homeless animals in our Commonwealth. Learning about animal care is a valuable lesson for children, but the risks abound in classroom animals make this an unsuitable environment for animals.

ARL urges school districts to instead choose lessons that do not pose a risk to the health and welfare of animals. Instead of using animals for classroom observation, students can view virtual models, or partake in learning activities outside of the classroom that do not require acquisition of large numbers of animals for short time frames. Learning about animals can be a valuable way to show children both scientific and compassionate lessons, and humane treatment should be central to these lessons.

Therefore, the Animal Rescue League of Boston will:

  • Support the use of alternatives to dissections in classrooms
  • Oppose animals living in classrooms
  • Support animal learning exercises that do not require the use of acquiring animals for the classroom
  • Educate the public on humane and safe ways to incorporate animals into school curricula

      [1]M.G.L. 272 §80G