Torbay Council

Cookie Policy

Zoo Licence

Zoos are regulated by local authorities under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 opens in a new window.
The Act defines a zoo "[as] an establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition to the public otherwise than for the purposes of a circus and otherwise than as a pet shop; and this Act applies to any zoo to which members of the public have access, with or without charge for admission, on more than seven days in any period of 12 consecutive months".
We work in close partnership with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) opens in a new window on all aspects of zoo licensing.


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.
Once this period of time has lapsed, an application form can be submitted along with the current fee.
All applications must be assessed before being granted.
You are able to apply online to operate a Zoo licence or notify your intent to operate a zoo.
Alternatively, a printable application forms can be downloaded.

Following an Application

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.
An annual stock list must be provided along with any updated escape precaution procedures.

Planning Requirements

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 will  refuse or defer a decision on an application for a licence until the planning issue has been decided.


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 will be made. 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.
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.
It is in the public interest that Torbay Licensing Authority must process your application before it can be granted. You cannot provide, operate, authorise or undertake the licensable activity without a Licence and submitting an application form does not guarantee that a Licence will be granted.
If you have not had a response to your application within 28 working days, please contact Safety and Licensing. Please note: Processing an application for a Zoo can take up to five months, if you have any queries about your application, please contact Safety and Licensing.


The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 specifies conservation measures that must be undertaken by the zoo. The licence will contain appropriate conditions with regard to these measures and the Secretary of State issues model conditions for zoo licences. The local authority also has discretion to attach any condition(s) deemed necessary or desirable for the proper conduct of the zoo. The Secretary of State issues guidance of standards of practice that zoos should meet which apply in England. Copies of the Secretary of State’s Standards of Modern Zoo Practice are available from DEFRA or download at Standards of Modern Zoo Practice opens in a new window

Power of Entry

Local authority officers, authorised in writing for this purpose and accompanied by the appointed veterinary surgeon may inspect zoo premises having given 28 days notice in writing.
There is currently no power of entry to unlicensed premises.

Disqualifications and Cancellations

Before granting or refusing to grant a licence for a zoo, the authority shall:
  1. consider inspectors' reports made in pursuance of inspections of the zoo under this Act, or
  2. if no inspection of the zoo has been made under this Act, consult such persons on the list as the Secretary of State nominates for the purposes of this section.
The local authority will refuse to grant a licence for a zoo if they are satisfied that the establishment or continuance of the zoo would injuriously affect the health or safety of persons living in the neighbourhood of the zoo, or seriously affect the preservation of law and order.
The local authority may refuse to grant a licence for a zoo if they are not satisfied that the standards of accommodation, staffing or management are adequate for the proper care and well being of the animals or any of them or otherwise for the proper conduct of the zoo.
They may also refuse to grant a licence if:
  1. the applicant, or
  2. (where the applicant is a body corporate) the body or any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body, or
  3. any person employed as a keeper in the zoo,
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:



If a zoo operator is aggrieved by a decision made by the Local Authority in respect of a refusal to grant a zoo licence, refusal to transfer a licence, amendments to an existing licence or a forced zoo closure, the operator can apply to the magistrate’s courts within 28 days of receiving notice from the Local Authority.   The magistrates can confirm the Local Authority decision, vary it or reverse the decision.  


Circus - a place where animals are kept or introduced wholly or mainly for the purpose of performing tricks or manoeuvres at that place.
Wild Animals - animals not normally domesticated in Great Britain.
Pet Shop - see 'Pet Shops'.

Fees and Charges

Type of RegistrationFee
First Ever Zoo Licence£540.00
Statutory Six Yearly Inspection£270.00
Periodic Three Year Inspection£270.00
Transfer of Zoo Licence£155.00
The actual cost to a premises applying for a Zoo Licence will be considerably more than the fee paid to Torbay Council as the zoo is expected to cover the cost of inspections made by DEFRA nominated vets.
If an application is refused the application fee paid to Torbay Council can not be refunded.  Please, before the an application is submitted to the Council ensure the applicant can fulfill all of the edgible criteria.

Further Information

For general information about the licensing of zoos please contact Defra opens in a new window via 0117 372 8209 or

Professional Bodies

Related Websites