The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 requires the inspection and licensing
of all zoos in Great Britain. It aims to ensure that, where animals
are kept in enclosures, they are provided with a suitable
environment to provide an opportunity to express most normal
Responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the licensing
system and the administration of the Act rest with us
(Environmental Health). However, Central Government does have a
role. The secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural
affairs has a responsibility for maintaining a list of zoo
inspectors and for setting detailed standards for zoo management
with which zoos are expected to comply (the Secretary of State’s
Standards of Modern Zoo Practice).
A zoo is defined in the 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, on more
than seven dates in any period of 12 consecutive months'.
The wide scope of this definition means that licensed zoos range
from traditional urban zoos and safari parks 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. Dispensations for these
types of collection reduce the number of inspectors to a reasonable
level for a small establishment and do not in any way weaken a
zoo's obligation to achieve the levels of animal's welfare and
modern public safety set out in the Secretary of State's
The act does not extend to circuses, or to pet shops, both of
which are covered by other legislation.
Licenses will not be issues to anyone who has been convicted of
an offence under this Act or under any of the enactments mentioned
in subsection (5) or of any other offence involving the
ill-treatment of animals.
The enactments are:
- The Protection of Animals Acts 1911 to 1964
- The Protection of Animals (Scotland) Acts 1912 to 1964
- The M1Pet Animals Act 1951
- The M2Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963
- The Riding Establishments Acts 1964 and 1970
- The M3Breeding of Dogs Act 1973
- The M4Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976
- The M5Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 1976
summary of the eligibility criteria for this
Application evaluation process
Contact us at Environmental Health Section or alternatively
download an application for a Zoo Licence.
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 using the
contact details provided.
Apply for a licence
To apply for a licence contact the licensing
Failed application redress
Please contact your us (Environmental Health) in
the first instance. Any applicant who is refused a licence
can appeal to their local Magistrates' court.
Licence holder redress
Please contact us (Environmental Health) in the first
instance. Any licence holder who wishes to appeal against a
condition attached to their licence can appeal to their local
Magistrates' court .
We would always advise that in the event of a complaint the
first contact is made with the trader by you - preferably in the
form a letter (with proof of delivery). If that has not worked, if
you are located in the UK, Consumer Direct will give you advice.
From outside the UK contact the UK European