Zoo Licence

Do I need a licence?

If you operate an establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition to members of the public, you will need to obtain a zoo licence.  The only exceptions to this are when the animals are kept for performing purposes (eg circus or films) or in a pet shop (see appropriate page).

The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 applies to any zoo to which members of the public have access, with or without a charge for admission, on more than seven days in any period of 12 consecutive months.

Conditions will be imposed to ensure the proper conduct of the zoo.

Eligibility Criteria

At least two months before making an application for a licence, the applicant must give notice in writing (including by electronic means) to the local authority of their intention to make the application.  The notice must identify:

  • the location of the zoo
  • the types of animals and approximate number for each group kept for exhibition on the premises and the arrangements for their accommodation, maintenance and wellbeing
  • the approximate numbers and categories of staff to be employed in the zoo
  • the approximate number of visitors and motor vehicles for which accommodation is to be provided
  • the approximate number and position of access routes to be provided to the premises
  • how required conservation measures will be implemented at the zoo.

At least two months before making the application, the applicant must also publish notice of that intention in one local newspaper and one national newspaper and exhibit a copy of that notice.  The notice must identify the location of the zoo and state that the application notice to the local authority is available to be inspected at the Local Authority offices.

Before we can grant a licence for a zoo, we need to be satisfied that the establishment will not affect the health and safety of persons living in the neighbourhood.

The premises and accommodation must satisfy basic standards for health, welfare and safety of the animals that you intend to keep.  We will arrange a veterinary surgeon inspection to ensure that the accommodation is suitable.

A fee is payable on application (see Schedule of Fees under Useful Links).   It should be noted that in all cases  the costs associated with all periodic inspections (including the initial inspection for new zoos) carried out by an inspector appointed by the Secretary of State are charged to the applicant as an additional fee.

Regulation Summary

A summary of the regulation relating to this licence

Application Evaluation Process

When considering an application the local authority shall take into account any representations 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 in which it is situated
  • any person alleging that the zoo would affect the health or safety of people 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 the licence, the local authority shall consider any inspectors report 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 shall be provided by the Local Authority.

The local authority will not grant the licence if they consider that the zoo would adversely affect the health and safety of people living near it, seriously affect the preservation of law and order, or if they are not satisfied that appropriate conservation measures would be satisfactorily implemented.

An application may also be refused if:

  • the Local Authority 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, or if the applicant is an 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.

Licences can be granted for a period of four years and therefore are normally renewed every six years.  The Secretary of State for the Environment has specified standards for modern Zoo practice to which the Council must have regard, these can be found on the DEFRA website.

Zoos are required to be inspected every year and formally every three years.  The formal inspections are carried out in conjunction with an inspector nominated by the Secretary of State.

Further Information:

Advice and information relating to operating a zoo, including the Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice and the Zoos Forum Handbook, can be found on the DEFRA website link under External Links.

A copy of the standard conditions attached to Zoo Licences can be found under related documents.  It should be noted that additional conditions may be attached to a licence following an inspection. 

Hygiene and Cautions

Some zoos, petting zoos and open farms allow public contact with animals.  You can find advice on how to reduce the  risk of customers contacting  illness from animals under related documents on this page.  The Industry Code of Practice and summary provides advice on prevention or control of ill health from animal contact at visitor attractions. 

Will Tacit Consent Apply?

No - it is in the public interest that the Local Authority must process your application before it can be granted.  If you have not heard from us within a reasonable period, please contact us.

Apply online

Apply for a licence for a Zoo

Renewing your licence

Renewal applications must be received a minimum of 6 months before the expiry of the current licence.

Application Forms

If you require an application form you can download a copy from the related documents section on this page. Alternatively please contact the Environmental Health & Licensing Team.  

If you are planning to buy or take over a licensed zoo, please use the form in related documents to notify the council of the transfer.

Failed Application Redress

Please contact West Somerset Council in the first instance.  If the applicant is refused a licence, they may appeal to the Magistrates Court within 28 days from the date on which the applicant received written notification of the refusal.

Licence Holder Redress

A licence holder may appeal to a Magistrates Court against:

  • any condition attached to a licence or any variation or cancellation of a condition
  • the refusal to approve the transfer of a licence
  • a zoo closure direction
  • enforcement steps relating to any unmet condition 
Consumer Complaint

In the first instance, you should complain, preferably in writing, to the applicant.  If this does not resolve the issue, please contact the Licensing Unit.

We look forward to receiving your application and if you have any difficulty with any of the forms or have any questions, please contact us on 01643 703704 or email customerservices@westsomerset.gov.uk or complete the online form.

If you have any comments, enquiries or feedback about any of our services, please complete the online form.  Your comments will be collated and used to improve the service we provide.