Responsible pet ownership for children

Toddler and dog, separated by glass doorsThe Responsible Pet Ownership (RPO) program educates children from ages 4 to 12 on:

  • living safely with dogs
  • responsible pet ownership.

Our pet educators and their dogs visit over 2000 kindergartens and 800 primary schools in Victoria each year to promote the vital safety messages through animated presentations, song and role play.

The We Are Family program educates expectant parents and parents of children 0 to 4 years old on pet safety around young children. The program is delivered through antenatal centres in 70 hospitals and 680 maternal and child health centres each year.

These programs are paid for by a levy collected by local councils as part of the annual dog and cat registration fee.

For more information on the RPO program, access to teachers' and parents' resources and to book a program at your school or preschool email: vic.pet@ecodev.vic.gov.au or phone 1800 000 776.

Cartoon cat and dog looking happyPet Town learning tool

Pet Town is a fun and interactive learning tool educating kindergarten and Primary School aged children on responsible pet ownership and dog safety.

It reinforces the information and messages that children are taught when the RPO Program visits their school.

Pet Town uses learning activities and games to promote the important key safety messages in regards to living safely with dogs.

You can visit the Pet Town website or download as an application on tablets.

We Are Family programParent, child and dog sitting together

The We Are Family Program educates expectant and new parents on the many advantages of allowing their child to experience the joys of having a pet in the family.


The programs presents the potential risks of owning a pet. It provides knowledge and strategies to ensure pet ownership is not only a physically and emotionally enriching, but a safe too.

This program is available free to all hospitals with antenatal programs and all maternal and child health centres.

We Are Family booklet

We've produced a small booklet that families can download for free. It contains useful tips on raising children and pets together.

Download the We Are Family booklet:

2 images showing a clear and metal baby gate used to separate the children and dogsMore information

Phone: 1800 000 776
Email: wearefamily.program@ecodev.vic.gov.au

Kindergarten Program

The Living Safely with Dogs program delivers over 2000 visits to more than 65,000 kindergarten children and 18,000 parents each year.

Our pet educators visit with their suitability tested dog and demonstrate how to safely meet and greet a real dog. Each child is then given the opportunity to participate in the meet and greet with the pet educators dog.

For many children this can be their first interaction with a dog and provides a positive and educational experience for each child.

Pet Educator showing kindergarten students how to touch the dog

The interactive program focuses on teaching students:

  • when dogs should be left alone
  • things we should not do to dogs
  • how can you tell if a dog is happy, scared or angry
  • a safe way to approach and greet a dog
  • what to do if approached by an unknown or aggressive dog


The Living Safely with Dogs Program also conducts sessions with parents at kindergartens and child care centres.

Family walking past a dogThis is offered to all kindergartens and child care centre free of charge. Our pet educators provide information to parents about:

  • choosing a dog appropriate for their family
  • confining dogs adequately to prevent dog attacks
  • supervision as the key to preventing dog attacks on children
  • how can you tell if a dog is happy, frightened or angry
  • the safety messages that their children have been taught

For further information contact: vic.pet@ecodev.vic.gov.au

Primary School ProgramCartoon of child scaring a dog


The Responsible Pet Ownership primary school program is aimed at 5 to 12 year olds and has been delivered to over 1 million Victorian primary school children. It visits over 800 primary schools each year across the state.

The program includes:

  • a dog visit
  • multimedia tools
  • role play
  • song and story time

Cartoon dog wagging tail with tongue out}The program focuses on teaching students about dog safety:

  • when dogs should be left alone
  • things we should not do to dogs
  • how can you tell if a dog is happy, frightened or angry
  • a safe way to approach and greet a dog
  • what to do if approached by an unknown or aggressive dog

The program also introduces and develops the following concepts:

  • choosing an appropriate pet
  • general welfare
  • husbandry
  • the importance of identification and registration
  • confinement and housing
  • exercise and training

There are a range of presentations designed to target the specific audiences in relation to:

  • grade level
  • prior knowledge
  • learning modes

A comprehensive, integrated curriculum package is available to all Victorian primary schools, free of charge. The curriculum units are supported by a highly interactive resource package, incorporating picture story books and multimedia activities.

For further information please email: vic.pet@ecodev.vic.gov.au

Pet educatorsPet educator showing how to touch the dog, educational materials in background

All dogs used in the program are carefully tested and under the control of a pet educator at all times.

The RPO program needs 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.

Suitability tested dogs

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 the pet educators and live with them. The health and well-being of our dogs and the safety of participating children is our key priority.

Page last updated: 02 Jul 2020