To run a zoo you will need a licence.

For more information about the licensing of zoos and keeping animals visit the GOV.UK Opens in a new window website.


At least two months prior to placing an application with us you must tell us in writing of your intention to make an application.

  Notification to operate a zoo Opens in a new window

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 us 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.

  Apply for a licence to operate a zoo Opens in a new window

After the submission of an application

If you have not had a response to your application within 28 working days, please contact us. Processing an application for a Zoo can take up to five months, if you have any queries about your application, please contact us.

We 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.

Each original licence will run for four years and consecutive renewals will run for six years.

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

Changes and transfers

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 our approval. 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.

  Apply to change a licence to operate a zoo Opens in a new window



Application Type Fee
First ever licence £995
Statutory six yearly inspection £400
Periodic three year inspection £500
Informal annual inspection £500
Transfer of Licence £260

Additional information

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 Standards of Modern Zoo Practice  Opens in a new window  for zoo licences. We also have discretion to attach any condition(s) deemed necessary or desirable for the proper conduct of the zoo. 

Before granting or refusing to grant a licence for a zoo, we 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.

We 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.

We 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:

  • Protection of Animals Acts 1911 to 1964;
  • Protection of Animals (Scotland) Acts 1912 to 1964;
  • Pet Animals Act 1951;
  • Protection of Birds Acts 1954 to 1967;
  • Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963;
  • Riding Establishments Act 1964 and 1970;
  • Breeding of Dogs Act 1973;
  • Conservation of Wild Creatures and Wild Plants Act 1975;
  • Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976;
  • Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 1976
  • Animal Welfare Act 2006