We work in close partnership with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on all aspects of zoo licensing.

The licensing of zoos is a specialist field and the regulations are complex. If you are thinking of setting up a zoo, it is recommended you contact the Appointed Animal Licensing Inspector for advice and guidance. 

We cannot consider an application unless at least two months notice has been given, plus details must be published in a local and national newspaper, and a notice placed at the site.

We must consult the police, fire authority, a governing body of any national institute concerned with zoos, and adjoining authorities if the zoo overlaps another authority, as well as anyone wishing to object. 

The current fees for a zoo licence:

New Applications: £5,000, plus all veterinary fees. Renewals:  £2,200 plus all veterinary fees.         Transfer of a licence: £1,000 plus all veterinary fees.

Where a dispensation has been granted, reduced fees may be levied. 

Who needs a zoo licence? 

You must have a zoo licence to run a zoo if your zoo is open to the public on 7 or more days in a 12-month period.

A zoo is any establishment where wild animals are exhibited to the public, apart from circuses and pet shops.

Wild animals are any animals that aren’t normally domesticated in Great Britain, eg camels, ostriches.

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

You might not have to get a licence depending on your situation. The Secretary of State will make a decision on a case-by-case basis. Usually both of the following must apply to your situation:

  • 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

The Secretary of State will also decide if the animals are hazardous or conservation sensitive.

If you believe your collection may qualify for an exemption you must still contact the Appointed Animal Licensing Inspector to put your case to The Secretary of State to grant a dispensation.


How long does a licence last for? 

Your initial licence is valid for 4 years. After that, you’ll need to renew your licence. Renewed licences are valid for 6 years.

You should renew your licence at least 6 months before your existing one expires.


Zoos are inspected before and after a licence is granted. 

Before you can get a licence, your zoo will have a Formal Inspection as part of your licence application.

If you are granted a licence, your zoo will be inspected at least once a year.

Formal inspections: Your zoo will usually be inspected by a team that must by law, include one or more inspectors from the Secretary of State’s list. These inspectors might be: 

  • Vets
  • inspectors nominated by the Secretary of State after a request by the local authority


You’ll get formal inspections:

  • as part of applying for your licence
  • before a licence renewal or a significant change to a licence
  • during the first year of your original licence and 6 months before the end of the fourth year of that licence
  • during the third year of the licence and 6 months before the end of the sixth year of the licence if your licence is a renewal licence

Your local authority might also carry out another formal inspection at any time if it’s concerned about your zoo.

You’ll be told in writing about formal inspections in advance and who will inspect your zoo.

Informal Inspections: You’ll have an informal inspection if you get a licence and there hasn’t been any other inspection during the calendar year.

You won’t necessarily be told about informal inspections, eg who’s going to inspect, what they’ll inspect or when they’ll inspect your zoo.

For further information or guidance you can contact the councils Appointed Animal Licensing Inspector