A Zoo licence is needed if wild animals are exhibited to the general public on seven or more days in any 12 consecutive months. There are exemptions for circuses, pet shops and any individual premises where the Secretary of State issues a direction that the Act should not apply.
Summary of legislation
The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (Amendment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2002 put new enforcement powers into effect to secure the aims and objectives of European Council Directive 19999/22/EC. These Regulations came into effect on 8 January 2003.
Who needs to notify/apply
If you are thinking of setting up a zoo, it is recommended that you contact us first for advice and guidance. The local authority 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. Once this period of time has lapsed, an application form can be submitted along with the current fee.
Applicants for the renewal of a Zoo licence and all new applicants are required to demonstrate how they meet the key areas contained in the Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice which reflect the following five principles:
- Provision of food and water
- Provision of a suitable habitat
- Provision of suitable animal healthcare
- Provision of an opportunity to express most normal behaviour
- Provision of protection from fear and distress
Participation in conservation measures such as:
- Research of benefit to the conservation of species; Training in relevant conservation skills;
- Exchange of information relating to species conservation;
- Captive breeding and repopulating or re-introduction of species to the wild.
- Promoting public education and awareness in relation to the conservation of biodiversity, with particular emphasis on providing information about the species exhibited and their natural habitats.
- Accommodating their animals under conditions that aim to satisfy the biological and conservation requirements of individual species by providing:
Species specific enrichment of the enclosures;
- A high standard of animal husbandry;
A developed programme of preventative and curative veterinary care and nutrition;
- Preventing animal escapes to:
- Avoid possible ecological threats to indigenous species and prevent intrusion of outside pests and vermin.
- Keep up to date records of the Zoo collection.
For small zoos or for a zoo exhibiting only a small number of different kinds of animals the Secretary of State has powers to relax the requirements of the Act. The local authority can seek a direction that the Act shall not apply at all (Section 14(1)(a)) or that certain category of inspection is not required (Section 14(1)(b)).
Alternatively, the zoo operator, on applying to the Secretary of State for a zoo licence, may be granted a dispensation (Section 14(2)) to reduce the number of inspectors to a reasonable level for a small establishment. This doesn’t reduce the zoo’s obligation to achieve the levels of animal welfare and public safety set out in the Secretary of State’s Standards
How do I apply?
When considering an application the Environmental Health Service shall 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) 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
An applicant for a licence will need to consider whether planning permission is required for the proposed licensed activity. They should contact the planning department to discuss whether permission will be needed. The local authority may refuse or defer a decision on an application for a licence until the planning issue has been decided. Before granting or refusing to grant the licence, the Environmental Health Service 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 Environmental Health Service.
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. Each original licence will run for four years, consecutive renewals will run for six years. Failure or late application for renewal may invalidate any public liability insurance for the premises.
Changes to the licence i.e. name changes, ownership changes can be undertaken at the request of the operator, however a charge may be required. A licence can be transferred to another person with the approval of the local authority. On the death of the holder of a licence, the personal representatives of the deceased are deemed to be the holders during a three month period following the death, or longer with our approval.
Each original licence will run for four years, consecutive renewals will run for six years.
How long will it take to consider the notification/ application?We will endeavour to contact you within 5 days of the receipt of notice of intention to apply for a licence. If you have not heard from us within this period, please contact us to ensure that your notice was correctly made and received. The initial notice of intention to apply will provide a period of 2 months for the authority to make necessary arrangements to embark on the next stage in the process.
Bearing in mind the complexity of the licensing process, it is not possible to provide an exact time period for the grant or refusal of a licence. Time scales will vary depending on the size and nature of each individual application. Comments gained in the consultation period and from the inspectors report may vary widely, and some applications may need to go before the Council’s Licensing Committee for determination.
How much will it cost to notify/apply?
The fees associated with applications for zoo licences can be found using this link Fees & Charges.
Will tacit consent apply?
Tacit consent does not apply to applications for this licence as it is in the public interest that the authority must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from the local authority within a reasonable period, please contact the Environmental Health Service at the address given below.
If my application is refused, how do I appeal?
The Environmental Health Service 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 local authority 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
The Secretary of State, after consulting the Environmental Health Service, may direct them to attach one or more conditions to a licence
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.
What if I have a complaint or concern?
The public register of licensed zoos can be found here.
For further information
Further information on:
- zoos operating in England;
- the Zoo Licensing Act.;
- the Secretary of State’s Standards for Modern Zoo Practice;
- Government Circular Guidance 02/2003 on the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (Amendment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2002;
- zoos forum handbook;
- managing health and safety in zoos.
is available from DEFRA
For other queries, or to obtain hard copies of the above documentation, you can contact DEFRA at:
Wildlife Species Conservation Division
Department for Environment
Food and Rural Affairs
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Tel: 0117 372 8209 or
The Animal Welfare Act 2006, places responsibilities for care and welfare of an animal, on persons who are in charge of or are responsible for the animal, whether on a permanent or temporary basis. More information is available from DEFRA
Environmental Health Service
Richmondshire District Council
Telephone: 01748 829100
Fax: 01748 826186