Zoos are regulated by the Council under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981.
The Council works in close partnership with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on all aspects of zoo licensing. The licensing of zoos is a specialist field and the regulations are complex. If you are thinking of setting up a zoo, it is recommended that you contact us first.
The Council cannot consider an application unless at least two months notice of the application has been given, plus publication of details in a local and national newspaper, and a notice placed at the site.
The Council must consult the police, fire authority, governing body of any national institute concerned with zoos, an adjoining authority if the zoo overlaps the area of that authority and any person wishing to object on grounds of alleged injurious effect on the health or safety of persons living in the area.
The Council must arrange an inspection by a consultant inspector from the list of suitable inspectors nominated by the Secretary of State.
Telephone: 01462 474579 or 474832 or contact us online.
Apply for a zoo licence
To run a zoo in England, Scotland and Wales, you need a licence from the Council. The licence may be subject to fees, and conditions to ensure the proper conduct of the zoo.
At least two months before making an application for a licence, the applicant must give notice in writing (including by electronic means) to the local authority of their intention to make the application. The notice must identify the following:
- zoo's location
- types of animals and approximate number of each group kept for exhibition on the premises and the arrangements for their accommodation, maintenance and wellbeing
- approximate numbers and categories of staff to be employed in the zoo
- approximate number of visitors and motor vehicles for which accommodation is to be provided
- approximate number and position of access 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.
Application Evaluation Process
When considering an application the local authority shall take into account any representations made by or on behalf of the following:
- chief officer of police (or in Scotland the chief constable) in the relevant area
- appropriate authority - this is either the enforcing authority or relevant authority in whose area the zoo will be situated
- governing body of any national institution concerned with the operation of zoos
- where part of the zoo is not situated in the area of the Council with power to grant the licence, a planning authority for the relevant area (other than a county planning authority) or, if the part is situated in Wales, the local planning authority for the area in which it is situated
- 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 to grant the licence, the Council shall 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. At least 28 days notice of the inspection shall 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 near it, or seriously affect the preservation of law and order or if they are not satisfied that appropriate conservation measures would be satisfactorily implemented.
An application may also be refused if:
- the Council is 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 a shorter time period is allowed by the local authority.
The Secretary of State, after consulting the Council, may direct them to attach one or more conditions to a licence.
The Council 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.
What does this cost?
What happens next?
It is in the public interest that the authority must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from us within a reasonable period please contact us.
What happens if something changes?
Failed Application Redress
If you are unhappy about the way that we have dealt with your application, the Council has a formal mechanism for dealing with such issues. Please see our Comments, Compliments and Complaints page or call our Customer Service Team on 01462 474000.
Licence Holder Redress
Please contact us in the first instance. A licence holder may appeal to a Magistrates' court against:
- any condition attached to a licence or any variation or cancellation of a condition
- the refusal to approve the transfer of a licence
- a zoo closure direction
- enforcement steps relating to any unmet condition
The appeal must be brought within 28 days from the date on which the licence holder receives written notification of the authority's decision as to the relevant matter.
We would always advise that in the event of a complaint the first contact is made with the trader by you - preferably in the form a letter (with proof of delivery). If that has not worked, if you are located in the UK, Consumer Advice can give you support. From outside the UK contact the UK European Consumer Centre.
Any person who wishes to appeal against a decision to close a zoo may apply to the local Magistrates' court. Appeals must be made within 28 days of the notice of the local authority decision.