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Zoo Licence

Information on Zoo Licences including notification and how to apply


  • What you need to do before you apply for the license.
  • What we will consider when reviewing your application.
  • How much it costs to apply.
  • Why your application may be refused

Do I need a Zoo Licence?

To run a zoo you need a licence from us.

What do I need to do before I can apply?

Two months before applying you must give notice in writing to us of your intention to make the application. This 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 by 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 at the premises
    how required conservation measures will be implemented at the zoo.

At least two months before making your application you must also publish a notice of that intention in one local newspaper and one national newspaper and exhibit a copy of that notice.

This notice must show the location of the zoo and state that the application notice to us is available to be inspected at our offices.

What will be considered when my application is reviewed?

When considering your application we shall take into account any representations made by or on behalf of:

  • you - the applicant
  • the chief officer of police 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 (other than a county planning authority) or, if the part is situated in Wales, the local planning authority for the area in which it is situated
  • 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

How much does it cost to apply?

See our licensing fees & charges

How can I apply?

You can download, print and complete the notification and application forms here:

Application form for a new zoo licence

Notification of your intention to operate a zoo - to be sent to Colchester Borough Council

Notification of your intention to operate a zoo - to be sent to the relevant press

How can I renew my licence?

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 us.

Apply to renew your zoo licence

How long will processing my application take?

We aim to complete your application within 28 days (excluding the period of the notice of intention to apply).

Why might my application be refused?

Before granting or refusing to grant the licence, we shall consider any inspectors' reports based on their inspection of the zoo, consult you about any conditions they propose should be attached to the licence and make arrangements for an inspection to be carried out. At least 28 days notice of the inspection shall be provided by us.

We will not grant the licence if we feel that the zoo would affect the health or safety of people living in near it, or seriously affect the preservation of law and order or if we are not satisfied that appropriate conservation measures would be satisfactorily implemented.
We may also refuse an application if we 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, or if you, or applicant is an incorporated company, the company or any of the company's directors, managers, secretaries or other similar officers, or a keeper in the zoo, has been convicted of any offence involving the ill-treatment of animals.

The Secretary of State, after consulting us, may direct us to attach one or more conditions to a licence.

We 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 that a licence is not required.

What can I do if my application is unsuccessful?

Please contact us in the first instance.

If you are refused a licence, or refused the renewal of a licence, you may appeal to the local Magistrates' Court.

What can I do if I am unhappy with conditions attached to my licence?

Please contact us in the first instance

You may appeal to a Magistrates Court 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 bought within 28 days from the day you receive written notification of our decision on the relevant matter.

What if I want to complain about a licence holder?

We would always advise that in the event of a complaint you contact the licence holder first – preferably in the form of a letter (with proof of delivery).  If this does not work and you are located in the UK, Consumer rights - GOV.UK will give you advice. From outside the UK contact the UK European Consumer Centre.

If you wish to appeal against a decision to close a zoo, you can apply to the local Magistrates’ Court.  Any appeals must be made within 28 days of the notice of our decision.

Where can I find a record of documents such as zoo inspection reports and collection inventories? 

View the record of zoo data