Become a Pet Educator

For nearly 20 years the Responsible Pet Ownership (RPO) program has taught children how to be safe around pets and emphasise the importance of responsible pet ownership.

The program operates within Animal Welfare Victoria.


Program Coordinators, Virginia Soderstrom and Rob Morrice, launched the program at West Footscray Primary in May 2000. Since then the team has visited over 59,000 preschools and schools teaching more than 3,335,000 students.

Over a 15 year period (1999/2000 – 2013/2014), Victoria has seen a statistically significant decline in dog attacks in children aged 0–4 requiring emergency hospital treatment, according to research undertaken by Monash University Accident Research Centre.

About the program

Responsible Pet Ownership Education Program logo.A workforce of 100 Pet Educators work with their own suitability tested dog to teach children how to safely approach a dog and what to do if an unknown or angry dog approaches. Stay still, hands down by your side and look at the ground – for those of you wondering.

Pet Educators use story, song and role play to reinforce messages.

“We have been fortunate to nurture the program from a concept through to the thriving education program it is today,” says Virginia.

“We are immensely proud of the program and the wonderful educators and dogs who have successfully spread this important message throughout Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.”

The program regularly receives positive feedback from parents, grateful their child has been able to retain and use messages in stressful situations to prevent an incident.

The program expanded into New South Wales in 2011, followed by South Australia through successful ongoing agreements with local and state governments. Demand for the program continues to grow and is now being trialed in the Australian Capital Territory.

A day in the life of a Pet Educator

This video shows a day in the life of Pet Educator, Simon and his dog Rory.

Become a Pet Educator

The RPO Program requires more Pet Educators throughout Victoria to ensure that the program can reach Kindergartens and Schools across the state. Our Educators are trained and remunerated for their work in developing the program's key safety messages.

Each Pet Educator is accompanied by their suitability-tested dog. These dogs are very comfortable in the school environment and enjoy their time with the children.

They are on leash and under the direct control of the Pet Educator at all times. Our dogs work under strict guidelines in relation to how often and when they can work.

The dogs are owned by, and reside with, the Pet Educators. The health and well-being of our dogs and the safety of participating children is our key priority.


If you would like to enquire about becoming a pet educator contact the Responsible Pet Ownership team on 1800 000 776 or

Page last updated: 07 Jan 2021