To run a zoo in England, Scotland and Wales, you need a licence from the local authority under The Zoo Licensing Act 1981.
The Act defines a zoo as being "as establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition to which members of the public have access, with or without charge for admission, on more than seven days in any period of twelve consecutive months".
This definition means that licensed zoo can range from the traditional type of zoo and safari park 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.
The application process:
At least two months before making an application for a licence, the applicant must give notice in writing 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 at the zoo
- the approximate number of visitors and motor vehicles for which accommodation is to be provided
- the approximate number and position of the means 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.
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 (or in Scotland the chief constable) 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) 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 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, or seriously affect the preservation of law and order or if they are not satisfied that appropriate conservation measures would be implemented.
An application may also be refused if:
- the local authority are not satisfied that accommodation, staffing or management standard 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 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 animals kept there, a direction should be made that a licence is not required.
To apply for a zoo licence:
Please call 01268 882200 or email us