Zoo licence

A zoo is any establishment, other than a circus or pet shop, where wild animals (those not normally domesticated) are kept for public exhibition with or without charge on more than seven days in any 12 month period.

To operate a zoo in South Derbyshire, you will need to obtain a licence from the council.

Eligibility criteria

At least two months before making an application for a licence, the applicant must give notice (pdf, 97kb) in writing (including by email) to the council of their intention to make the application.

The notice must identify:

  • The zoo's location.
  • The types and number of animals kept for exhibition, and the arrangements for accommodation, maintenance and wellbeing.
  • The numbers and roles of staff to be employed at the zoo.
  • The maximum number of visitors and vehicles admitted onsite at any one time.
  • How customers will access the premises.
  • Explanation of how conservation measures will be implemented at the zoo.

The applicant must also publish notice of intention in one local newspaper, one national newspaper (the London Gazette is classed as a national newspaper), and exhibit a copy of the notice at the premises.

The notice must identify the location of the zoo and state that the application notice is available to be inspected at the local authority offices.

Information and Guidance

The following websites contain information and guidance on licences and legislation, including minimum standards to be met for animal welfare.

When is this licence required?

The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 defines a "zoo" as an establishment where

  • Wild animals are kept for exhibition to the public, not including circuses and pet shop (separate licences are required).
  • Any zoo to which members of the public have access, with or without a charge for admission, and on more than seven days in any period of 12 consecutive months.

If you intend to operate an establishment in South Derbyshire that falls within the above criteria, it will be necessary for you to gain a licence.

Please note that premises that display or exhibit non domestic animals for less than 7 days in a year would require a Dangerous wild animal licence.

If you are thinking of setting up a zoo, it is recommended that you contact us first for advice and guidance.

Before a licence for a zoo can be granted in its area the council must be satisfied that:

  • The establishment will not affect the health and safety of the public.
  • The establishment will not undermine the law.
  • The accommodation, staffing and management are adequate for the proper care and well-being of the animals.

Planning Requirements

Application for a licence will need to consider whether planning permission is required to carry out the proposed licence activity. They should contact the planning department to discuss whether permission will be needed. The local authority may refuse or defer a decision of an application for a licence until the planning issue has been decided.

How much does it cost?

The application fee changes annually so for this year's fee please view the fees page. The cost of inspection will be invoiced separately.  The invoice must be paid before a licence is issued.

How can I apply?

Please download and complete the application form (pdf, 113kb) and submit your completed application and other relevant documentation.

How long does my licence last?

Each licence will run for four years, renewals will run for six years.

Renewal of a licence

If you already hold a licence and it is due for renewal we will write to you informing you that the licence is due to be renewed asking you to complete a licence renewal form and submit payment.

An application for renewal must be received at least six months before the expiry of the current licence.

Please download the application form (pdf, 89kb) to renew your existing licence.


Inspections occur as a minimum at renewal (within the six months leading up to the expiry date, in the first year of the licence, and the third year of the six year period.)

The local authority can request an inspection where concerns or reports of animal welfare have risen.

Where no inspection has taken place in a calendar year, an informal inspection will be carried out by the local authority.

Offences and Penalties

The following offences and penalties are created under Section 19 of the Zoo Licensing Act 1981:

  • operating a zoo without a licence in contravention of the Act;
  • failing without reasonable excuse to comply with any conditions of a licence;
  • intentionally obstructing an inspector in the course of an inspection;
  • intentionally obstructing someone who is authorised in accordance with Section 16G to enter the premises of a permanently closed zoos or a dwelling within the zoo grounds;
  • failing without reasonable excuse with a direction issued under section 16A(2)(d) to close a zoo or part of it to the public for a period not exceeding two years;
  • failing without reasonable excuse to comply with a zoo closure direction;
  • failing without reasonable excuse to supply information requested by the local authority about the care or disposal of zoo animals in the event of a zoo closure;
  • failing without reasonable excuse and without the agreement of the authority, to dispose of any animal kept at a permanently closed zoo before the plan in section 16E(2) has been approved by the authority, or other than in accordance with the agreed plan;
  • failing without reasonable excuse to comply with a direction issued under section 16E(6) (direction about the welfare or disposal of animals kept in a permanently closed zoo);
  • failing without reasonable excuse to display the zoo licence or a copy at each entrance of the zoo.

Under Section 19(4) persons found guilty of any offence above are liable to a fine of level 4 (currently £2,500), except obstructing an inspector, failing to supply information about the care or disposal of zoo animals in the event of zoo closure, or failing to display the licence or copy of it at each zoo entrance area for which are liable to a fine of level 3 (currently £1000).