Zoo licence - apply online

Notification of intention to operate a zoo
Application for a licence to operate a zoo
Application to vary an existing zoo licence

Licence summary

If you operate an establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition to the public, you will need to obtain a licence. The only exceptions to this are when the animals are kept for performing purposes (eg circus or films) or in a pet shop, where separate licences are required (see appropriate pages).

The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 applies to any zoo to which members of the public have access, with or without a charge for admission, on more than seven days in any period of 12 consecutive months.

Conditions will be imposed to ensure the proper conduct of the zoo.

Eligibility criteria

At least two months before making an application for a licence, the applicant must give notice in writing (including by electronic means) to us 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 routes 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.

Before we can grant a licence for a zoo, we will need to be satisfied that the establishment will not affect the health and safety of persons living in the neighbourhood.

The premises and accommodation must satisfy basic standards for the health, welfare and safety of the animals that you intend to keep. We will arrange a veterinary surgeon's inspection to ensure that the accommodation is suitable.

Fees will be payable for applications and conditions may be attached. The fee is based upon an application and operating fee. Should the application not be granted, you will be refunded half the fee. If you require any assistance throughout the application process, please contact us using the details below.

Regulation Summary - A summary of the regulation relating to this licence

Application evaluation process

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 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
  • a planning authority for the relevant area (other than a county planning authority) where part of the zoo is not situated in the area of the local authority with power to grant the licence
  • 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 the licence, we will 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. We will provide at least 28 days' notice of the inspection.

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

An application may also be refused if:

  • we 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 we agree a shorter time period.

The Secretary of State, after consulting with the Council, may direct them to attach one or more conditions to a licence. We may advise the Secretary of State that, because of the small number of animals kept in the zoo or the small number of the kinds of animal kept there, a direction should be made that that a licence is not required.