The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 aims to ensure that where private individuals keep dangerous wild animals they do so in circumstances which create no risk to the public and which safeguard the welfare of the animals.

When is a licence required?

Animals which are classified as "dangerous wild animals" can be anything from an Aardvark to a Zebra. They are identified in a schedule to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act. Anyone wishing to keep one of these animals requires a Licence issued by the local authority.

This licensing procedure does not apply to animals kept in:

  • a zoo
  • a circus
  • a pet shop
  • a place which is a designated establishment within the meaning of Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986

A licence holder has to contact the licensing authority for approval if animals are to be moved to another destination.

What conditions are required by a licence?

Before a licence is issued, the local authority must be satisfied that certain 'dangerous wild animal' conditions, relating to safety and the welfare of the animals, are met.

Permission must be sought if the animal is to be moved into another Local Authority area. The relevant local authorities are required to consult with each other before permission can be granted.

Disqualification and cancellation

A person may not be granted a licence if he or she has been convicted of an offence under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 or under:

  • Protection of Animals Act 1911-1964;
  • Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912-1964;
  • Pet Animals Act 1951;
  • Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963;
  • Riding Establishments Act 1964-1970;
  • Breeding of Dogs Act 1973.

On conviction under any of the above legislation, the Court may cancel any licence to keep a dangerous wild animal and disqualify the person from holding such a licence for such a period as the Court thinks fit.

The cancellation or disqualification may be suspended by the Court in the event of an appeal.

Power of entry

Local Authorities may authorise competent persons to enter premises either licensed under the Act or specified in an application for a licence, at all reasonable times, producing if required their authority, and the authorised officers may inspect these premises and any animal in them.

Offences and penalties

Anybody found guilty of keeping an animal covered by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 without an appropriate licence or anybody found guilty of failing to comply with any licence condition can be fined.

Any person found guilty of obstructing or delaying an Inspector or Authorised Veterinary Practitioner or Veterinary Surgeon can be fined.

Seizure of animals

If a Dangerous Wild Animal is being kept without the authority of a licence or in contravention of a licence condition, the Local Authority may seize the animal and retain it, destroy it or otherwise dispose of it. The Local Authority is not liable to pay compensation and, where the Council incurs any expense in seizing, retaining or disposing of an animal then the person who was the keeper of the animal shall be liable for those costs.

How much does it cost?

Please see our licensing fees page.

Making an application

An application to a local authority for a licence must be made (unless in exceptional circumstances) by the person who proposes to own and possess the animal. Once an application has been received, you will receive confirmation from the licensing team that the application is in progress you will then need to arrange for a vet to inspect your establishment. You will have to pay the vets directly for this visit in addition to your licence fee.

We will then arrange for an inspection of the premises by an authorised officer of the Council. Before granting a Licence, we will consider the report of this inspection concerning the applicant, the premises and other relevant matters.

We will not grant a licence unless we are satisfied that all licence conditions can be met and it will not be contrary to the public interest on grounds of safety, nuisance or otherwise. Licences are valid for one year.

A licence comes into force on either the day on which it is granted and is due for renewal a year later. The licensing team will send out renewal application forms when required.

On the death of a licence holder, the licence continues in the name of the personal representatives for 28 days only and then expires unless application is made for a new licence within that time, in which case it continues, until the new application is determined.