Zoo licence

You’ll need a zoo licence if you’ll be displaying wild animals to the public for at least 7 days a year, in any place that’s not a circus or pet shop.

How to apply for a licence

Why do I need a licence?

To run a zoo in England, Scotland and Wales, you need a licence from the local authority. The licence may be subject to fees, and conditions to ensure the proper conduct of the zoo.

Who can apply?

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 zoo's location
  • The types of animals and approximate number of each group kept for exhibition on the premises
  • 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 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.

What do the regulations say?

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 (or in Scotland the chief constable) 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
  • Any person alleging that the zoo would affect the health or safety of people living in the neighbourhood
  • Anyone stating that the zoo would affect the health or safety of anyone 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, the local authority shall:

  • 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
  • Make arrangements for an inspection to be carried out. At least 28 days notice of the inspection will be provided by the local authority.

The local authority will not grant the licence if:

  • They feel that the zoo would adversely affect the health or safety of people living in near it, or
  • They feel that the zoo would seriously affect the preservation of law and order, or
  • 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
  • There are any convictions of offences relating to the ill-treatment of animals by
    • the applicant,
    • the company,
    • any of the company's directors, managers, secretaries or other similar officers, or
    • a keeper in the zoo.

Applications to renew a licence will be considered no later than six months before the expiry of the existing licence, unless a shorter time period is allowed by the local authority.

The Secretary of State, after consulting the local authority, may direct them to attach one or more conditions to a licence.

The local authority may advise the Secretary of State that, because of the small number of animals kept in the zoo or the small number of the kinds of animal kept there, a direction should be made that a licence is not required.

This summary of the legislation is provided for guidance only. You can consult a copy of the Zoo Licensing Act here.

What if I don't hear from you?

Is the licence granted if you do not hear from the Licensing Authority? (Tacit Consent) No. It is in the public interest that the authority must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from the local authority within a reasonable period, please contact us.


Notification of your intention to operate a zoo and Apply for a licence to operate a zoo

  • An application period of 28 days calendar days is required.

Changes to your existing zoo licence

  • An application period of 21 working days is required.

How much will the licence cost?

Send notification of your intention to operate a zoo and tell us about a change to your existing zoo licence

  • No fee

Apply for a licence to operate a zoo.

  • This will be estimated on application and will depend on size, scale and animals to be kept

Failed application redress

Please contact Milton Keynes City Council in the first instance.

If the applicant is refused a licence, they may appeal to a magistrates' court.

Licence holder redress

Please contact Milton Keynes City Council in the first instance.

A licence holder may appeal to a Magistrates' court or in Scotland to the sheriff 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

The appeal must be brought within 28 days from the date on which the licence holder receives written notification of the authority's decision as to the relevant matter.

Consumer complaints

We would always advise that in the event of a complaint the first contact is made with the trader by you - preferably in the form a letter (with proof of delivery). If that has not worked and you are located in the UK we will give you advice.

Any person who wishes to appeal against a decision to close a zoo may apply to the local Magistrates' court or, in Scotland, to the sheriff.  Appeals must be made within 28 days of the notice of the local authority decision.