Zoo licensing

Zoos are regulated by us under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981.

The act defines a zoo "[as] an establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition to the public otherwise than for the purposes of a circus and otherwise than as a pet shop; and this act applies to any zoo to which members of the public have access, with or without charge for admission, on more than seven days in any period of 12 consecutive months".

We work in close partnership with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on all aspects of zoo licensing.

How to apply

At least two months prior to placing an application with the local authority the potential zoo operator must provide in writing its intention to make an application. A published notice must also be placed in a locally circulating newspaper as well as a national newspaper. A copy of this notice must also be placed at the site for easy viewing and with the local authority for public comment. Once this period of time has lapsed, an application form can be submitted along with the current application fee.

The licence will be issued subject to compliance with the license conditions and payment of the fee. Applications can be made direct to the local authority.

What happens next?

The local authority may request representations from the police, fire service, public objections and a national institution concerned with the operation of zoos in the UK (ie if an aquatic zoo, go to an aquatic zoo specialist). Prior to granting or refusing a licence we will need to obtain an appointed veterinary report (by the Secretary of State) and absorb the comments made. A refusal will occur if the zoo could affect the health and safety of persons living in the neighbourhood due to insufficient controls being in place or inadequate. We may also refuse on the weight of public comment, if the operator/keeper has been convicted of an offence related to ill-treatment of animals, if planning permission has not been granted, etc. In any case the operator will receive a written statement of the grounds for refusal. An annual stock list must be provided along with any updated escape precaution procedures.

Planning requirements

Your application for a licence will need to consider whether planning permission is required for the proposed licensed activity. You should contact our planning team to discuss whether permission will be needed. Your application for a licence will not be processed until the planning issue has been decided.


Each original licence will run for four years, consequent renewals will run for six years. Annual local authority inspections occur, with appointed veterinary visits occurring as a minimum at renewal stage (ie within the six months leading to the expiry date) and in the first year of the original licence and in the third year of the six-year period. The local authority can request veterinary visits by an appointed person where concerns have arisen. All visits carried out by this person are paid for by the zoo operator. Failure or late application for renewal may invalidate any public liability insurance for the premises.

Changes to the licence, ie name or ownership changes can be undertaken at the request of the operator, however a charge may be required. On the death of the holder of a licence, the personal representatives of the deceased are deemed to be the holders during a three month period following the death, or longer with our approval.


The fees for a zoo licence are payable in two parts: 

  1. An application fee to be submitted with your application forms (non refundable). Existing businesses applying before 19 November 2018 will be charged the lower renewal rate, for applications received after this date, the higher rate application fee will be charged. 
  2. A grant fee that depends on the duration of your licence payable after your inspection (non refundable).

Fee details

  • New application fee: £361
  • Grant fee (four year licence): £1,004
  • Renewal fee (six year licence): £1,556
  • Variation fee: £79 per hour of officer time

All the above fees do not include any charges incurred from a vet inspection which will have to be paid in addition to the licensing fee. A variation fee will be charged for any required changes to the licence once it has been issued.


The Secretary of State issues model conditions for zoo licences, however additional conditions can be attached to the licence by us and in consultation with the appointed veterinary.

Power of entry

Our officers, authorised in writing by us for this purpose and accompanied by the appointed veterinary surgeon, may inspect zoo premises having given 28 days notice in writing. There is currently no power of entry to unlicensed premises.

Disqualifications and cancellations

Before granting or refusing to grant a licence for a zoo, the authority shall:

  • Consider inspectors' reports made in pursuance of inspections of the zoo under this act, or
  • If no inspection of the zoo has been made under this act, consult such persons on the list as the Secretary of State nominates for the purposes of this section

We will refuse to grant a licence for a zoo if we are satisfied that the establishment would injuriously affect the health or safety of persons living in the neighbourhood or seriously affect the preservation of law and order. We may refuse to grant a licence for a zoo if we are not satisfied that the standards of accommodation, staffing or management are adequate for the proper care and wellbeing of the animals. We may also refuse to grant a licence if the applicant has been convicted of an offence under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 or of any other offence involving the ill-treatment of animals.

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