Zoo licence

The conduct of zoos is regulated by licences granted under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981.

You need a zoo licence if you will be displaying wild animals to the public, with or without charge for admission, for at least 7 days a year, in a place that is not a circus or pet shop. Zoos range from traditional zoos and safari parks to small specialist collections, such as butterfly houses and aquaria.

You may also need planning permission and you should therefore contact the planning unit to discuss whether permission will be needed.

Before applying for a licence, you must first provide the local authority with at least 2 months’ written notice that you intend to apply and also publish a notice in at least 1 local newspaper and 1 national newspaper. You must state in your notice where and when the notice to the local authority may be inspected. The notice will be available for public inspection until the application is processed. You cannot submit your application until after the 2 months’ notice has expired.

You must give details about:

  • Site and layout
  • Where the zoo will be
  • What kind of animals you’re going to keep and how many
  • How you’ll house and care for the animals
  • Staff numbers and what they’ll be doing
  • Expected visitor and vehicle numbers
  • Zoo entrance and exit points
  • How you’ll meet the conservation conditions

Application evaluation process

The licensing of zoos is a specialist field and the regulations are complex. It is recommended that a specialist officer is contacted first for advice and guidance.

There are exemptions for circuses, pet shops and any individual premises where the Secretary of State issues a direction that the act should not apply.

Please download the notice of intention form first, and send it to the Animal Licensing Team.

You will be contacted and forwarded an application form in due course.

You also need to publish this notice in the press and on the proposed site of your zoo. A suggested format for the notice is also provided in the download section.

Before you get your licence your premises will be inspected by an approved inspector. You may have to pay a fee for this. You will get at least 28 days’ notice before the inspection.

We will also consult other local agencies such as police, fire, planning authority, etc. We will take account of representations made in respect of the application by these organisations and by members of the public.

After the inspection the council might grant or refuse your application. If the application is granted, we may attach conditions to your licence and you will be inspected regularly to make sure you’re following these conditions.

Licences are usually granted for 4 years. Consecutive renewals will run for 6 years.

Licence requirements

To get a licence your zoo must:

  • Help educate people about biodiversity
  • Be suitable for the types of animals you’re keeping
  • Have a high standard of animal care
  • Do as much as possible to stop any animals escaping
  • Stop pests and vermin getting into the zoo

You must also do at least 1 of the following:

  • Conservation research or training
  • Share conservation information
  • Captive animal breeding
  • Help repopulate or reintroduce species into the wild

You must also make sure the zoo wouldn’t affect:

  • The health and safety of local people
  • The preservation of law and order
  • The animals’ well-being

You may not get a licence if anyone working in or managing the zoo has committed an animal welfare offence.

You must keep records on animal health, numbers and species, acquisitions, births, deaths (with causes), disposals and escapes.

Licence fees and charges

The authority will charge a fee to process your application (use the link below for current fees and charges). The fee is the same whether you apply online or by post (businesslink.gov.uk or UK Welcomes do not charge an additional fee for online applications).

You will also have to pay for the inspection fee.

Environmental Health fees & charges

Service standards

We will acknowledge receipt of your application within 4 working days.

We aim to determine your application within 28 days after all consultation and inspection reports have been received. If you have not heard from us within 28 days, please contact us as you cannot assume your application has been granted once this time period has expired.

Will tacit consent apply?

No.  It is in the public interest that we must process your application before it can be granted.

If you have not heard from us within a reasonable period, please contact us.


Please contact us in the first instance.

Any applicant who is refused a licence can appeal to their local Magistrates

Any licence holder who objects to a condition attached to a licence may appeal to the local Magistrates court.

Apply online

via Gov.uk

Notification to operate a zoo

Application for a licence to operate a zoo

Application to change a zoo licence

Application to renew a zoo licence


Notice of Intention form

Press Notice form

Contact details

Environmental Health and Licensing
Stevenage Borough Council
Daneshill House

01438 242908 / 242916