Zoo licence

To run a zoo you need a licence from us.

Who needs a zoo licence

You need a zoo licence for any establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition to the public (other than a circus or a pet shop) and to which members of the public have access, with or without charge for admission, for more than seven days in any period of 12 months.

Who can apply for a zoo licence

Anyone who wishes to run a zoo which is open to the public for 7 or more days a year.

Who doesn't need a licence

Some zoos don’t need a licence because of the number of animals or the type of animal kept in them. This is known as having a dispensation.

Usually both of the following can have a dispensation:

  • very small zoos (eg zoos that have no more than around 120 animals)
  • zoos that don’t have many different kinds of animals, eg deer parks

Contact us if you think that your zoo may qualify for an exemption.

How long a licence will last

Zoo licences are valid for 4 years, after which you will need to renew your licence with us. You are responsible for ensuring your licence is renewed on time.


This licence will be subject to fees. Contact us to find out more.

What you need to provide with your application

At least two months before making a formal application, you must first make a notification that you intend to apply, identifying: 

  • the zoo’s location
  • what types of animals you will have
  • approximate number for each group of animals kept for exhibition
  • arrangements for their accommodation, maintenance and wellbeing
  • approximate numbers and categories of staff to be employed
  • approximate number of visitors and vehicles for which accommodation is to be provided
  • approximate number and position of access to be provided
  • how required conservation measures will be implemented

This notification must be published in one local newspaper and one national newspaper and you will need to provide a copy of both to us. The notice must identify the location of the zoo and state that your application notice is available for the public to view at our offices.

Two months after the notification you can make an application for a licence to us. At this stage in the process, you will have to provide confirmation that planning permission has been granted for the zoo.

What happens once you have made an application

Once we receive your application we will take into account any representations (comments) made by or on behalf of:

  • the applicant
  • the chief officer of police in the relevant area
  • the appropriate authority - this is either the enforcing authority or relevant authority in whose area the zoo will be situated
  • the governing body of any national institution concerned with the operation of zoos
  • where part of the zoo is not situated in the area of the local authority with power to grant the licence, a planning authority for the relevant area (other than a county planning authority) or, if the part is situated in Wales, the local planning authority for the area in which it is situated
  • any person alleging that the zoo would affect the health or safety of people living in the neighbourhood or living near it
  • any other person whose representations might show grounds on which the authority has a power or duty to refuse to grant a licence

Before granting or refusing to grant the licence, we will consider any inspectors' reports based on their inspection of the zoo, consult the applicant about any conditions they propose should be attached to the licence and make arrangements for an inspection to be carried out. At least 28 days notice of the inspection will be provided by us.

We will not grant the licence if we feel that the zoo would adversely affect the health or safety of people living in near it, seriously affect the preservation of law and order or if we are not satisfied that appropriate conservation measures would be satisfactorily implemented.

An application may also be refused if:

  • we are not satisfied that accommodation, staffing or management standards are suitable for the proper care and wellbeing of the animals or for the proper conduct of the zoo
  • the applicant, the applicant's incorporated company, the company or any of the company's directors, managers, secretaries or other similar officers, or a keeper in the zoo, has been convicted of any offence involving the ill-treatment of animals

Applications to renew a licence will be considered no later than six months before the expiry of the existing licence.

Tacit consent will not apply

It is in the public interest that we process your application before it can be granted and you cannot assume your licence has been granted if you have not heard from us. If you have not heard from us within 28 days of submitting your application you should contact us.

If we have an issue with your application, we will notify you of this in writing and your application will then be determined by our licensing committee, which you will be invited to attend.

Apply for a zoo licence

If you want to apply for a zoo licence, renew your licence or make a change to your current licence, you should contact us for the relevant forms.

How to make an appeal or a complaint

You should contact us if you want to appeal our decision or complain.

If you are refused a licence, you may appeal to the Magistrates Court within 28 days from the date on which you have received written notification of the refusal.

Any person who wishes to appeal against a decision to close a zoo may apply to the local Magistrates Court. Appeals must be made within 28 days of the notice of our decision.

EUGO logo. Text reads "In partnership with EUGO"

Contact the Licensing Team

0114 273 4264
Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm
Block C
Staniforth Road Depot
S9 3HD

Want to talk to someone right now?

Supporting information

Is this page helpful?

Is this page helpful?