Animals are effective and valuable teaching aids, but safeguards are required to reduce the risk for infection and injury.
These abbreviated recommendations are based on guidelines developed by the Alabama Department of Public Health* and
the Kansas Department of Health and
Environment. Recommendations are also available from the National Science
Teachers Association§ and the National Association of Biology
General Guidelines for School Settings**
Wash hands after contact with animals, animal products, or animal environments.
Supervise human-animal contact, particularly for children aged <5 years.
Display animals in enclosed cages or under appropriate restraint.
Designate specific areas for animal contact.
Do not allow food in animal contact areas; do not allow animals in areas where food and drink are prepared or consumed.
Do not allow animals to roam, fly free, or have contact with wild animals.
Clean and disinfect all areas where animals have been present. Children should only perform this task while supervised
by an adult.
Obtain appropriate veterinary care, a certificate of veterinary inspection, and/or proof of rabies vaccination
according to local or state requirements.
Keep animals clean and free of intestinal parasites, fleas, ticks, mites, and lice.
Parents should be informed of the benefits and potential risks associated with animals in school classrooms. Consult
with parents to determine special considerations needed for children who are immunocompromised, who have allergies, or
who have asthma.
Ensure that personnel providing animals for educational purposes are knowledgeable regarding animal handling
and zoonotic disease issues. Individuals or facilities that display animals to the public should be licensed by the USDA.
Fish --- Use disposable gloves when cleaning aquariums, and do not dispose of aquarium water in sinks used for
food preparation or for obtaining drinking water.
Nonpsittacine birds --- See General Guidelines.
Psittacine birds (e.g., parrots, parakeets, and cockatiels)
--- Consult the psittacosis compendium, and seek
veterinary advice. Use birds treated or testing negative for avian chlamydiosis.
Domestic dogs, cats, rabbits, and rodents (e.g., mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, and chinchillas) --- See
Baby chicks and ducks --- To prevent
Salmonella or Campylobacter infection, children aged <5 years should not
have contact with baby chicks and ducks.
Reptiles (including turtles, lizards, and snakes) and
amphibians --- To prevent Salmonella infection, children aged <5
years should not have contact with reptiles and amphibians.
Ferrets --- To prevent bites, children aged <5 years should not have direct contact with ferrets.
Farm animals --- See General Guidelines. Certain animals (e.g., young ruminants and young poultry) excrete
E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella,
Campylobacter, and Cryptosporidium intermittently and in substantial numbers; therefore
these animals are not appropriate unless meticulous attention to personal hygiene can be assured.
Mammals at high risk for transmitting rabies (e.g., bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes) --- Students should not
be permitted to touch these animals, nor are these animals appropriate as residents in the classroom.
Owl pellets --- Assume owl pellets to be contaminated with
Salmonella. Dissections should not be done in areas
where food is consumed. Thoroughly clean and disinfect contact surfaces. Wash hands after contact.
Animals Not Recommended in School Settings
Inherently dangerous animals (e.g., lions, tigers, cougars, and bears).
Nonhuman primates (e.g., monkeys and apes).
Mammals at higher risk for transmitting rabies (e.g., bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes).
Aggressive or unpredictable animals, wild or domestic.
Stray animals with unknown health and vaccination
Venomous or toxin-producing spiders, insects, reptiles, and amphibians.
* W.B. Johnston, DVM, Alabama Department of Public Health, personal communication, 2002.
** Guide, hearing, or other service animals and law enforcement animals can be used when they are under the control of a person familiar with
the specific animal and in accordance with recommendations from the sponsoring organizations.
National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians. Compendium of measures to control
Chlamydophila psittaci infection among
humans (psittacosis) and pet birds (avian chlamydiosis), 2006. Available at
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