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The Humane Education and Advocacy Program

Humane Education in U.S. Schools

These states have laws addressing the humane treatment of animals and/or humane education in varying forms in public schools:


CAL. EDC. § 51540, “In the public elementary and high schools or in public elementary and high school school-sponsored activities and classes held elsewhere than on school premises, live vertebrate animals shall not, as part of a scientific experiment or any purpose whatever: (a) Be experimentally medicated or drugged in a manner to cause painful reactions or induce painful or lethal pathological conditions. (b) Be injured through any other treatments, including, but not limited to, anesthetization or electric shock. Live animals on the premises of a public elementary or high school shall be housed and cared for in a humane and safe manner. The provisions of this section are not intended to prohibit or constrain vocational instruction in the normal practices of animal husbandry.”


FLA. STAT. Title XLVIII. § 1003.42, “(2) Members of the instructional staff of the public schools, subject to the rules of the State Board of Education and the district school board, shall teach efficiently and faithfully, using the books and materials required that meet the highest standards for professionalism and historical accuracy, following the prescribed courses of study, and employing approved methods of instruction, the following: (k) Kindness to animals.”


105. ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/27-13.1, “In every public school there shall be instruction, study and discussion of current problems and needs in the conservation of natural resources, including but not limited to air pollution, water pollution, waste reduction and recycling, the effects of excessive use of pesticides, preservation of wilderness areas, forest management, protection of wildlife and humane care of domestic animals.”


Louisiana’s humane education law (Title 17, Section 266), was repealed in 2013.


ME. STAT. Tit. 20, § 1221, “Instructors of youth in public or private institutions shall use their best endeavors to impress on the minds of the children and youth committed to their care and instruction the principles of morality and justice and a sacred regard for truth; love of country, humanity and a universal benevolence; the great principles of humanity as illustrated by kindness to birds and animals and regard for all factors which contribute to the well-being of man; industry and frugality; chastity, moderation and temperance; and all other virtues which ornament human society; and to lead those under their care, as their ages and capacities admit, into a particular understanding of the tendency of such virtues to preserve and perfect a republican constitution, secure the blessings of liberty and to promote their future happiness.”


MASS. GEN. LAWS ch. 272, § 80G, “No school principal, administrator or teacher shall allow any live vertebrate to be used in any elementary or high school under state control or supported wholly or partly by public money of the state as part of a scientific experiment or for any other purpose in which said vertebrates are experimentally medicated or drugged in a manner to cause painful reactions or to induce painful or lethal pathological conditions, or in which said vertebrates are injured through any other type of treatment, experiment or procedure including but not limited to anesthetization or electric shock, or where the normal health of said animal is interfered with or where pain or distress is caused.

No person shall, in the presence of a pupil in any elementary or high school under state control or supported wholly or partly by public money of the state, practice vivisection, or exhibit a vivisected animal. Dissection of dead animals or any portions thereof in such schools shall be confined to the class room and to the presence of pupils engaged in the study to be promoted thereby, and shall in no case be for the purpose of exhibition.

Live animals used as class pets or for purposes not prohibited in paragraphs one and two hereof in such schools shall be housed or cared for in a safe and humane manner. Said animals shall not remain in school over periods when such schools are not in session, unless adequate care is provided at all times.

The provisions of the preceding three paragraphs shall also apply to any activity associated with or sponsored by the school. Whoever violates the provisions of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars.”

New Hampshire

N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 644:8-c Animal Use in Science Classes and Science Fairs. –
    I. In this section:
       (a) “Animal” means any member of the kingdom of Animalia.
       (b) “Vertebrate animal” means any animal belonging to the subphylum Vertebrata of the phylum Chordata, and specifically includes all mammals, fishes, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
    II. Live vertebrate animals shall not be used in experiments or observational studies, with the following exceptions:
       (a) Observational studies may be made of the normal living patterns of wild animals, in the free living state or in zoological parks, gardens, or aquaria.
       (b) Observational studies may be made of the living patterns of vertebrate animals in the classroom.
       (c) Observational studies on bird egg embryos are permitted. However, if normal bird embryos are to be allowed to hatch, satisfactory humane consideration shall be made for disposal of the baby birds.
       (d) Vertebrate animal cells such as red blood cells or other tissue cells, plasma or serum, or anatomical specimens, such as organs, tissues, or skeletons, may be used in experiments or observational studies.
    III. No school principal, administrator or teacher shall allow any live vertebrate animal to be used in any elementary or secondary school, or in any activity associated with such school, such as science fairs, as part of a scientific experiment or procedure in which the health of the animal is interfered with, or in which pain, suffering, or distress is caused. Such experiments and procedures include, but are not limited to, surgery, anesthetization, and the inducement by any means of painful, lethal, or pathological conditions through techniques that include, but are not limited to:
       (a) Administration of drugs;
       (b) Exposure to pathogens, ionizing radiation, carcinogens, or to toxic or hazardous substances;
       (c) Deprivation; or
       (d) Electric shock or other distressing stimuli.
    IV. All experiments on live vertebrate animals which are not prohibited by this section shall be carried out under the supervision of a competent science teacher who shall be responsible for ensuring that the student has the necessary comprehension for the study to be undertaken.
    V. No person shall, in the presence of a pupil in any elementary or secondary school, perform any of the procedures or experiments described in paragraph III or exhibit any vertebrate animal that has been used in such manner. Dissection of any dead animal, or portions thereof, shall be confined to the presence of students engaged in the study to be promoted by the dissections.
    VI. Science fair projects originating in other states that do not conform with the provisions of this section shall not be exhibited within the state.
    VII. Any live animal kept in any elementary or secondary school shall be housed and cared for in a humane and safe manner and shall be the personal responsibility of the teacher or other adult supervisor of the project or study.
    VIII. Ordinary agricultural procedures taught in animal husbandry courses shall not be prohibited by this section.
    IX. Any person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.

New Jersey

NJSA 18A:35-4.1, “Requires course of study in principles of humanity”

New York

N.Y. EDUC. LAW § § 809, “1. The officer, board or commission authorized or required to prescribe courses of instruction shall cause instruction to be given in every elementary school under state control or supported wholly or partly by public money of the state, in the humane treatment and protection of animals and the importance of the part they play in the economy of nature as well as the necessity of controlling the proliferation of animals which are subsequently abandoned and caused to suffer extreme cruelty. Such instruction shall be for such period of time during each school year as the board of regents may prescribe and may be joined with work in literature, reading, language, nature study or ethnology. Such weekly instruction may be divided into two or more periods. A school district shall not be entitled to participate in the public school money on account of any school or the attendance at any school subject to the provisions of this section, if the instruction required hereby is not given therein.

  2. Study and care of live animals. Any school which cares for or uses animals for study shall ensure that each animal in such school be afforded the following: appropriate quarters; sufficient space for the normal behavior and postural requirements of the species; proper ventilation, lighting, and temperature control; adequate food and clean drinking water; and quarters which shall be cleaned on a regular basis and located in an area where undue stress and disturbance are minimized.

  3. Application. The provisions of this section shall not be construed to prohibit or constrain vocational instruction in the normal practice of animal husbandry, or prohibit or constrain instruction in environmental education activities as established by the department of environmental conservation.

  4. Dissection of animals. Any student expressing a moral or religious objection to the performance or witnessing of the dissection of an animal, either wholly or in part, shall be provided the opportunity to undertake and complete an alternative project that shall be approved by such student’s teacher; provided, however, that such objection is substantiated in writing by the student’s parent or legal guardian. Students who perform alternative projects who do not perform or witness the dissection of animals shall not be penalized. The board of education or trustees of a school district shall develop a policy to give reasonable notice to all students enrolled in a course that includes the dissection of an animal and students’ parents or legal guardians about their rights under this subdivision. Such notice shall be made available upon request at the school and distributed to parents and students enrolled in a course that includes dissection at least once at the beginning of the school year.

  5. Treatment of live vertebrate animals. a. Except as provided for in this subdivision, no school district, school principal, administrator, or teacher shall require or permit the performance of a lesson or experimental study on a live vertebrate animal in any such school or during any activity conducted under the auspices of such school whether or not the activity takes place on the premises of such school where such lesson or experimental study employs: (i) micro-organisms which cause disease in humans or animals, (ii) ionizing radiation, (iii) known cancer producing agents, (iv) chemicals at toxic levels, (v) drugs producing pain or deformity, (vi) severe extremes of temperature, (vii) electric or other shock, (viii) excessive noise, (ix) noxious fumes, (x) exercise to exhaustion, (xi) overcrowding, (xii) paralysis by muscle relaxants or other means, (xiii) deprivation or excess of food, water or other essential nutrients, (xiv) surgery or other invasive procedures, (xv) other extreme stimuli, or (xvi) termination of life.

  b. Notwithstanding any inconsistent provision of this section, the commissioner may, upon the submission of a written program plan, issue to such school a written waiver of such restrictions for students subject to the following provisions: (i) the student shall be in grade ten, eleven, or twelve; and (ii) the student shall be under the supervision of one or more teachers certified in science; and (iii) the student shall be pursuing an accelerated course of study in the sciences as defined by the commissioner in preparation for taking a state or national advanced placement examination. The commissioner shall issue a waiver of such restrictions for any teacher certified in science instructing such student. The written program plan shall include, but not be limited to: (i) the educational basis for requesting a waiver; (ii) the objective of the lesson or experiment; (iii) the methods and techniques to be used; and (iv) any other information required by the commissioner.

  6. Report. On or before the first day of January next succeeding the effective date of this amended section, the commissioner shall annually submit a report to the governor and the legislature which shall include, but not be limited to, the number of written program plan proposals submitted by schools and the number of such proposals subsequently approved by the commissioner. In those cases where a program plan proposal has been approved by the commissioner, such plan shall be appended to and become a part of the commissioner’s annual report. ” 


OR. REV. STAT. § 336.067, “(1) In public schools special emphasis shall be given to instruction in: (c) Humane treatment of animals.”


Public School Act of 1949, Article XV, § 1514, “Instruction in humane education shall be given to all pupils up to and including the fourth grade, and need not exceed half an hour each week during the whole school term. No cruel experiment on any living creature shall be permitted in any public school of this Commonwealth.”


WASH. REV. CODE § 28A.230.020, “All common schools shall give instruction in reading, handwriting, orthography, written and mental arithmetic, geography, the history of the United States, English grammar, physiology and hygiene with special reference to the effects of alcohol and drug abuse on the human system, science with special reference to the environment, and such other studies as may be prescribed by rule of the superintendent of public instruction. All teachers shall stress the importance of the cultivation of manners, the fundamental principles of honesty, honor, industry and economy, the minimum requisites for good health including the beneficial effect of physical exercise and methods to prevent exposure to and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, and the worth of kindness to all living creatures and the land. The prevention of child abuse may be offered as part of the curriculum in the common schools.”

Wisconsin 14.16.1

“Arbor and Bird Day. The governor, by proclamation, may set apart one day each year to be designated as Arbor and Bird Day, and may request its observance by all schools, colleges and other institutions by the planting of trees, the adornment of school and public grounds and by suitable exercises having for their object the advancement of the study of arboriculture, the promotion of a spirit of protection to birds and trees and the cultivation of an appreciative sentiment concerning them.”

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