What is the Responsible Pet Ownership (RPO) Program for Kindergarteners in Victoria?

26 October 2021

The Responsible Pet Ownership (RPO) program educates children from ages 4 to 12 on living safely with dogs and responsible pet ownership. Our pet educators and their dogs visit over 2000 kindergartens and 800 primary schools in Victoria each year to promote vital safety messages through animated presentations, songs and role-play.

This 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.

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.

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 allowed 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. 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, and 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. This is offered to all kindergartens and child care centres 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, and the safety messages that their children have been taught.

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.

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 a leash and under the direct control of the pet educator at all times. Our dogs work under strict guidelines concerning 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.


Animal Welfare Victoria. (2021, July 06). Responsible pet ownership for children. Retrieved September 30, 2021, from Agriculture Victoria: