Student Choice Laws in the US Against the Use of Animals in Teaching Laboratories

The prevalence of dissecting animals in the classroom as a teaching method has become a subject of discord among educators, students, and parents. It is with this in mind that the student choice laws were created for K-12 grade levels. Sadly, this does not apply to university and college students.

Under the student choice laws, the educational institution is required to notify the students and parents, at the onset of the course, if their curriculum includes animal dissection.


Simply put, the student choice laws (or policies, depending on the state) require educational institutions to give their students the chance to choose a more humane alternative to the traditional animal dissection without worrying that they will be penalized.

These humanealternatives such as virtual dissection, 3-D models, and videos, can be discussed in advance with the teacher so that he/she can be prepared when the dissection activity needs to be done.

Unfortunately, only 18 states and 1 district have the student choice laws in effect for K-12 students.

The states and district with student choice laws/policies are:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington, DC

For students studying in states or territories with no student choice laws, they still have the chance of not doing the dissection procedure despite it being a class activity.


Helpful Tips to Request for a Dissection Alternative:

Check the course curriculum to determine at the onset if you will be required to conduct an animal dissection later on in the course. If this is not clearly defined in the course outline, don’t hesitate to ask.

Get a consensus among your classmates to check if other students would be interested in requesting for a humane alternative. There is a higher chance of getting your request approved if there is a high number of students with the same request.

Have a list of the alternatives ready and prepare to defend your position, which clearly communicates the fact that you are serious in your advocacy.

Overall, it might take time to get everything sorted out but rest assured that campaigns have been on-going to have dissection alternatives implemented as the primary teaching tool in the US…and, hopefully, on a global scale.

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