Licensing criteria for centre-based ECE services

Section 10 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link) defines an early childhood education and care centre as a premises that is used regularly for the education or care of 3 or more children (not being children of the persons providing the education or care or children enrolled at a school who are being provided with education or care before or after school) under the age of 6 years by day (or part of a day) but not for any continuous period of more than 7 days.

Centre-based ECE services have a variety of different operating structures, philosophies and affiliations, and are known by many different names – for example, Playcentres, early learning centres, Montessori, childcare centres, Kindergartens, crèches, preschools, a’oga amata, Rudolf Steiner etc.

These centres are licensed in accordance with the Education and Training Act 2020 under the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008(external link), which prescribe minimum standards that each licensed service must meet. Licensing criteria are used to assess how the centres meet the minimum standards required by the regulations.

For each criterion there is guidance to help centres meet the required standards.

The publication of the criteria on its own can be downloaded as a PDF [PDF, 1.8 MB] and printed. 

The licensing criteria were last updated in September 2022. 


HS16 Animals

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Health and safety practices criterion 16

      § Safe and hygienic handling practices are implemented with regard to any animals at the service. All animals are able to be restrained.


      The criterion aims to ensure that animals at the service do not pose a health and safety risk to children.

  • Guidance
    • Guidance

      Any examples in the guidance are provided as a starting point to show how services can meet (or exceed) the requirement. Services may choose to use other approaches better suited to their needs as long as they comply with the criteria.

      ECE centres will need to ensure that children and adults who handle animals practice thorough hand washing procedures afterwards.

      If an ECE centre has pets they need to be appropriately housed and restrained at all times and children supervised when interacting with them. Make sure their habitats are cleaned and maintained as required depending on the needs of the animal(s).

      Centres will need to ensure that animals, including those brought to the centre, can be properly restrained at all times. This could include a procedure outlining:

      • where dogs brought at pick-up and drop-off should be tied (not immediately at the gate where children are passing)
      • what happens with visiting animals (such as pet days or farm animals)
      • what happens if a sight impaired family member of a child has a guide dog.

      More information is available in the publication Caring for animals: a guide for teachers, early childhood educators and students(external link).