The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 defines a zoo as:
any establishment other than a circus or pet shop, where wild animals are kept for public exhibition on more than 7 days in any consecutive 12 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.
All zoos are required to be licensed to ensure that, where animals are kept in enclosures, they are provided with a suitable environment to provide an opportunity to express most normal behaviour, and to safeguard public safety.
Applying for a licence
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At least two months before making an application for a licence, you must give notice in writing to the council of your intention to make the application. The notice must identify:
- the zoos 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 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 council is available to be inspected at the council town hall.
The council is likely to request representations from the police, fire service, public objections and/or national institutions concerned with the operation of zoos in the UK. For example, for an aquatic zoo the council may consult an aquatic zoo specialist.
Other persons whose representations might be relevant may also be consulted.
An inspection is carried out by a Secretary of State appointed inspector who will produce a report of their findings.
Based on the report and other considerations the council will grant or refuse a licence.
If refused you will receive a written statement of the grounds for refusal.
The council will work closely with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) throughout the licensing process.
GOV.UK provides more information on zoo licences.