A licence for a zoo is required under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981. A zoo is defined in the licensing 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'.
Eligibility criteria for a zoo licence
At least 2 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 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 to be provided to the premises
- how required conservation measures will be implemented at the zoo.
At least 2 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.
Summary of regulations
The licensing of a zoo is a specialist field and the regulations are quite complex. Whilst we are responsible for licensing zoos we are supported by DEFRA who maintain a list of nominated zoo inspectors. If a person intends to apply for a licence, he/she is advised to contact us to discuss any proposals.
A fee must be paid to cover the cost of administration, inspection and enforcement activity.
Licences are granted for an initial period of 4 years and renewed at 6 year intervals.
Application evaluation process
When considering an application the local authority will 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
- where part of the zoo is not situated in the area of the local authority with power to grant the licence, a planning authority for the relevant area (other than a county planning authority)
- 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 local authority 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 near it, 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 be refused if:
- the local authority 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 6 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 local authority, may direct them to attach one or more conditions to a licence. The local authority 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.
Will tacit consent apply?
No. It is in the public interest that we must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from us within a reasonable period, please contact us.
Failed application redress
Please contact us in the first instance. If you are refused a licence, you may appeal to a magistrates' court within 28 days.
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.
Concerned about a zoo or making a complaint
We would always advise in the event of a complaint you contact the zoo directly - preferably in the form a letter (with proof of delivery). If that has not worked please contact us. From outside the UK contact the European Consumer Centre.
If you don't hear from the zoo about your concerns or complaint
Anyone who has not had a satisfactory response or who has reason to believe that a zoo is keeping animals in seriously inadequate conditions or there is danger to the public should contact us.
Health and Safety Team
1255 High Road
Tel: 020 8359 7995