A zoo is any establishment where wild animals are on display to the public for seven or more days in any twelve month period.  All zoos are licensed by the Local Authority. Pet Shops and Circuses are exempt from applying for this licence.



At least two months prior to placing an application with the authority the potential zoo operator must provide in writing its intention to make an application. A published notice must also be placed in a locally circulating newspaper as well as a national newspaper. A copy of this notice must also be placed at the site for easy viewing and with the local authority for public comment. 


A fee is applicable for a licence application.  View the details of fees for zoo licences.

Application evaluation process

The local authority may request representations from the police authority, fire service authority, public objections and/or a national institution concerned with the operation of zoos in the UK (i.e. if aquatic zoo go to an aquatic zoo specialist).  Other person(s) whose representations might be relevant can also be consulted.

An inspection is carried out by a Secretary of State appointed inspector who will produce a report of his findings. Based on the report and other considerations the local authority will grant or refuse to grant a licence.  The operator will receive a written statement of the grounds for refusal.

Planning requirements

An applicant for a licence will need to consider whether planning permission is required for the proposed licensed activity. Please contact the planning department separately to discuss whether permission will be needed. The authority may refuse or defer a decision on an application for a licence until the planning issue has been decided.


The Council may also refuse to grant a licence if the applicant, the director, manager, secretary or similar office of the body or any person employed as a keeper in the zoo has been convicted of an offence under this Act or under any Acts listed below:

  • The Protection of Animals Acts 1911 to 1964;
  • The Protection of Animals (Scotland) Acts 1912 to 1964;
  • The Pet Animals Act 1951;
  • The Protection of Birds Acts 1954 to 1967;
  • The Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963;
  • The Riding Establishments Act 1964 and 1970;
  • The Breeding of Dogs Act 1973;
  • The Conservation of Wild Creatures and Wild Plants Act 1975;
  • The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976;
  • The Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 1976

More information on the zoo licensing system can be found at the Defra Website.

Other useful organisations

Contact us


0300 123 5015

Page last reviewed: 05 August 2021