Zoo Licensing Act 1981
To run a zoo in England, Scotland and Wales, you need a licence from the local authority. Read the Zoo Licencing Act 1981 for more information.
The licence will be subject to fees and conditions to ensure the proper conduct of the zoo.
Any establishment where wild animals are kept for display to the public (other than in a circus or a pet shop) must first get a licence from the local authority.
Zoo Licencing Act 1981: A guide
An inspection by APHA nominated vets is necessary before an application for a zoo licence can be granted. The fee for this is payable by the applicant.
Read the Secretary of State's standards of modern zoo practice (last updated Oct 2017)
How much does a licence cost?
A fee is payable. Please read our current fees and charges
Who can apply?
Any 'fit and proper person', who is not disqualified from keeping animals, may apply.
Is planning permission required?
We recommend that you discuss your proposals with our Planning team to decide whether a planning application is needed.
Will tacit consent apply?
No. A zoo must not be run without a licence.
How do I apply for a licence?
At least two months before making an application, the applicant must publish notice of their intention in:
- one local newspaper
- one national newspaper
They must also exhibit a copy of that notice.
The notice must identify the location of the zoo. It must also state that the application notice (of your intention to operate a zoo) will be available for inspection at the local authority offices.
Download our notice of intention to apply for a zoo licence application
Before granting or refusing to grant the licence, the local authority will:
- consider any previous inspectors' reports based on their inspection of the zoo
- consult the applicant about any conditions they propose should be attached to the licence
- make arrangements for an inspection to be carried out
At least 28 days notice of the inspection will 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 or near it
- the zoo would seriously affect the preservation of law and order
- appropriate conservation measures would not be followed
Applications to renew a licence will be considered no later than six months before the expiry of the existing licence. This is unless a shorter time period is allowed by the local authority.
The Secretary of State, after consulting the local authority, may direct them to attach one or more conditions to a licence.
Read information about eligibility criteria for a zoo licence
The local authority may advise the Secretary of State that due to:
- the small number of animals being kept in the zoo or
- the small number of kinds of animals being kept in the zoo
a licence is not required.
Amending an existing zoo licence
Please contact us if you need to make a change to an existing zoo licence.
How long does a licence last?
Initially, a licence is granted for four years. After this period, it is renewed for six years (and then every six years thereafter).
What can I do if my licence application is refused?
If your application is refused, you can apply to the magistrates' court.
British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA)