When is a Zoo licence needed?

A zoo is defined as being 'an establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition ... to which members of the public have access, with or without charge for admission, on more than seven days in any period of twelve consecutive months'.

The wide scope of this definition means that licensed zoos range from traditional urban zoos and safari parks to small specialist collections such as butterfly houses and aquaria. Dispensations can be granted for small zoos which reduce the number of inspections to a reasonable level for a small establishment, but do not in any way weaken a zoo's obligation to achieve the levels of animal welfare and modern public safety set out in the Secretary of State's standards.

The Act does not extend to circuses (performing animals), or to pet shops, both of which are covered by other legislation.

Standards for Zoos

Zoo Inspectors carrying out inspections are required to take account of the Standards of Modern Zoo Practice in undertaking zoo inspections and making their recommendations to local authorities on whether to grant a zoo licence under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (as amended).

The Standards are designed to ensure that the welfare of animals in zoos is protected, that zoos are safe places for the public to visit and that zoos participate in appropriate conservation and public education measures.

Applicants for a zoo licence must be able to demonstrate that they can meet the key areas listed in these standards

How to apply

A form is available to complete online and a payment is required.

You can find our Fees and Charges on our Animal Licencing page.

This application is not subject to tacit approval under the European Union Services Directive.   The indicative timescale for dealing with the application is proposed to be within 100 days of receipt of a full application.   The deadline may be required to be extended, you will be notified of the new deadline and the reason for extending it.

Officers rely upon the expertise of Zoo inspectors appointed by the Secretary of State in the interpretation of standards during statutory inspections. During interim inspections by authorised Environmental Health Officers, operators are expected to outline their progress in achieving standards and demonstrate that existing conditions are being met.

Other matters to consider

Apart from ensuring that you have the necessary level of experience and expertise to look after the animal(s) that will be covered by the licence and that you can meet all the necessary standards and licence conditions, you should ensure that:

  • you have the relevant planning permissions for the activity and/or any enclosures that you are erecting - visit the planning pages for more information.
  • you  have considered and undertaken risk assessments relating to the health and safety of employees, the self-employed and the public. (Health and safety legislation at Zoo premises is enforced by the Environmental Services Health and Safety section).

For further information please contact our Health and Safety team.

Contact Details:

E-mail: fhsadmin@tendringdc.gov.uk
Environmental Health (Food, Health & Safety Team)
88-90 Pier Avenue
CO15 1TN
Telephone: 01255 686767


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