A licence for a zoo is required under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981. A zoo is defined in the Act as being 'an establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition to which members of the public have access, with or without charge for admission, seven or more days in any period of twelve consecutive months'.

The wide scope of this definition means that licensed zoos range from traditional urban zoos and safari parks to small specialist collections such as butterfly houses and aquaria. The Act recognises this wide range of establishments by allowing dispensations to be granted for small zoos. Dispensations for these types of collection reduce the number of inspectors to a reasonable level for a small establishment, and do not in any way weaken a zoo's obligation to achieve the levels of animal welfare and modern public safety set out in the Secretary of State's standards. The Act does not extend to circuses, or to pet shops, both of which are covered by other legislation.

The licensing of a zoo is a specialist field and the regulations are quite complex. If a person intends to apply for a licence, he/she is advised to contact the Licensing Team to discuss any proposals.

Council duties

Responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the licensing system and the administration of the Act rests with local authorities. However central government does have a role. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has responsibility for maintaining a list of zoo inspectors and for setting detailed standards for zoo management. Zoos are expected to comply with the Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice.

Further information is available from the DEFRA website.

Apply for a Licence

Applications can be made on line on the Council’s website

There is an application fee which must be paid at the time an application is made. The fee covers the cost of administration, inspection by a vet and enforcement activity.

Public Register

The public register of existing licences/consents/permits/registrations can be viewed on the Council’s website

The documents are in Adobe® PDF format and require the Adobe® Acrobat® Reader to view and print the Form.

If you do not yet have the Adobe Reader and need to download it then go to...

ZoosPage00 Adobe Reader Download

Page last updated on: 16/11/2010