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Zoo licences

Under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981, all zoos must be licensed by the relevant local authority, if they open to the public on seven or more days in any 12-month period (or are required by certain other legal provisions to obtain a licence). For the purposes of this requirement, zoos are considered to be any premises which exhibit wild animals, with the exception of circuses or pet shops. Safari parks, reptile houses, aquariums and wild animal parks are all likely to require licences.

No zoos are currently licensed within Dacorum.

Zoos are required by law to engage in certain conservation activities, including protecting the animals they keep in suitable environments, research into animal behaviour, breeding and repopulation of wild animals, promoting public education and awareness, and maintaining accurate records of the animals kept. Conditions will be imposed on licences to ensure that these requirements are met.

Applying for a licence

At least two months before making an application for a licence, the applicant must give notice in writing (or electronically) of their intention to make an 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 and 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.

Notice must also be published in one local newspaper, one national newspaper, and at the site of the proposed zoo. These notices must advise interested parties to contact the local authority in order to view the first notice, with the full details of the proposal.

After giving notice and waiting the requisite two months, an application for a licence can then be made. Applications must be made in writing, and will also require payment of an application fee set by us.

An inspection of the proposed zoo will be carried out by a suitably qualified, independent veterinarian, and we will consider their report before making a decision on an application. Applicants will be charged for the cost of this inspection.

We will also consult on all applications, and take into account any comments made by the following organisations:

  • the applicant
  • Hertfordshire Police
  • Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service
  • national institutions concerned with the operation of zoos (including DEFRA)
  • if the zoo lies across a borough boundary, any other council for that area
  • any other person alleging that the zoo would adversely affect the health or safety of nearby residents, or making relevant representations about the application.

A licence will only be granted if we are satisfied on all of the following points:

  • the zoo will not adversely affect the health and safety of people living nearby, nor affect law and order in that area
  • conservation measures will be implemented in a satisfactory manner
  • the standards of accommodation, staffing and management are adequate for the proper care and wellbeing of the animals
  • no one involved in the running of the zoo or employed as a keeper has been convicted of an animal welfare offence
  • if planning permission is required for the zoo, that this has been granted.

Apply online

Can I start trading before I hear from you?

No. It is in the public interest that we fully consider your application before you start to operate. If you have not heard from us within a reasonable period, please contact us, using the contact details below.

Maintaining a licence

Licences will be granted for an initial period of four years. A licence document will be issued, which must be displayed at the zoo.

An application to renew a licence can be made no later than six months before the current licence expires. On renewal, licences will be granted for a period of six years.

Licences can be transferred if ownership of the zoo changes, or if the previous holder dies.

We may periodically carry out inspections of licensed zoos to ensure that standards are being upheld. In extreme circumstances, we can arrange for the closure of a zoo if animals are being neglected or there is an imminent danger to the public.

Rights of appeal

If your application is refused, you may appeal against our decision. Licence-holders may also appeal against any decision to attach a condition to their licence, to refuse a transfer of a licence, to issue a zoo closure direction, or against enforcement steps for unmet licence conditions. In all cases, appeals must be lodged in a magistrates' court within 28 days of receiving notification of the decision.


If you wish to make a complaint about the operation of a zoo, we would in the first instance advise that you talk to the zoo's owner. If this does not work, the Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to assist further.

We will investigate complaints about unlicensed zoos, or zoos operating in breach of their licences. Please contact us using the details below with your concerns.

If you have recently applied for a licence and wish to comment or complain about the way in which your application was dealt with, please see our Feedback page.

Contact us

Email: licensing@dacorum.gov.uk
01442 228654

Page Last Updated: Monday, 03 October 2016 at 11:58 AM