Zoo licence

Why do I need a licence?

A licence is required for an establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition to which members of the public have access, with or without charge for admission, on more than seven days in any period of twelve consecutive months. To run a zoo in England, Scotland and Wales, you need a licence from the local authority.

Must I meet a certain criteria before I can apply for a licence?

At least two months before making an application for a licence, the applicant must give notice in writing (including by electronic means) to the local authority of their intention to make the application. The notice must identify:

  • the zoo's location
  • the types of animals and approximate number of each group kept for exhibition on the premises and the arrangements for their accommodation, maintenance and wellbeing
  • the approximate numbers and categories of staff to be employed in the zoo
  • the approximate number of visitors and motor vehicles for which accommodation is to be provided
  • the approximate number and position of access to be provided to the premises
  • how required conservation measures will be implemented at the zoo

At least two months before making the application, the applicant must also publish notice of that intention in one local newspaper and one national newspaper and exhibit a copy of that notice. The notice must identify the location of the zoo and state that the application notice to the local authority is available to be inspected at the local authority offices.

What legislation applies?

Zoo Licensing Act 1981

How will my application be determined?

When considering an application the local authority shall take into account any representations made by or on behalf of:

  • the applicant
  • the chief officer of police (or in Scotland the chief constable) in the relevant area
  • the appropriate authority - this is either the enforcing authority or relevant authority in whose area the zoo will be situated
  • the governing body of any national institution concerned with the operation of zoos
  • where part of the zoo is not situated in the area of the local authority with power to grant the licence, a planning authority for the relevant area (other than a county planning authority) or, if the part is situated in Wales, the local planning authority for the area in which it is situated
  • any person alleging that the zoo would affect the health or safety of people living in the neighbourhood
  • anyone stating that the zoo would affect the health or safety of anyone living near it
  • any other person whose representations might show grounds on which the authority has a power or duty to refuse to grant a licence

Before granting or refusing to grant the licence, the local authority shall consider any inspectors' reports based on their inspection of the zoo consult the applicant about any conditions they propose should be attached to the licence and make arrangements for an inspection to be carried out. At least 28 days notice of the inspection shall be provided by the local authority.

The local authority will not grant the licence if they feel that the zoo would adversely affect the health or safety of people living in near it, or seriously affect the preservation of law and order or if they are not satisfied that appropriate conservation measures would be satisfactorily implemented.

An application may also be refused if:

  • the local authority are not satisfied that accommodation, staffing or management standards are suitable for the proper care and wellbeing of the animals or for the proper conduct of the zoo
  • the applicant, or if the applicant is an incorporated company, the company or any of the company's directors, managers, secretaries or other similar officers, or a keeper in the zoo, has been convicted of any offence involving the ill-treatment of animals

Applications to renew a licence will be considered no later than six months before the expiry of the existing licence, unless a shorter time period is allowed by the local authority.

How much will it cost?

Please see our licensing fees page.

How do I apply?

Will tacit consent apply?

No. It is in the public interest that the authority must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from us within a reasonable period, please contact us.

If my application is refused how do I appeal?

Please contact us in the first instance for details of how to appeal.

How do I tell you about a change that may affect my licence?

You must notify us in writing of any changes to your current licence.

What if I have a complaint or concern?

If you have a complaint or concern about a Zoo Licence, please contact us.

General advice

If you are in the UK, advice is available from adviceguide

If you are outside the UK, advice if available from the UK European Consumer Centre

Can I view a public register on line?

No, as this register is not available for public inspection.