A zoo is classed as any establishment, other than a circus or pet shop, where wild animals (i.e. those not normally domesticated) are kept for public exhibition.

To run a zoo under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981, you need a licence from us.


You must not be disqualified from any of the following when you make an application:

  • The Protection of Animals Acts 1911 to 1964
  • The Protection of Animals (Scotland) Acts 1912 to 1964
  • The Pet Animals Act 1951
  • The Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963
  • The Riding Establishments Acts 1964 and 1970
  • The Breeding of Dogs Act 1973
  • The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976
  • The Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 1976
  • Part I of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Making an application

In order to apply for a licence you should complete an application form and return it together with the application fee which is currently £490 plus vet fee (not including Zoo Inspector's fee).

Once we have received your application form and fee, new premises will be inspected to check compliance with our licence conditions. Existing premises may also be subject to periodic inspections throughout the year

A first licence is granted for a period of four years with follow up licences issued for a period of 6 years.

Download the Zoo licence application documents.

Giving Notice of an application

Giving notice to the Council

At least two months before making an application for a licence, you must give us notice in writing (including by electronic means) of your 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 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

Download the Zoo licence Notice of Intention.

Giving notice to the public

At least two months before making the application, you 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 us is available to be inspected at Oxford City Council,Town Hall, St Aldate's, Oxford OX1 1BX.

Download the Zoo licence press Notice of Intention.

Things to consider once an application is considered

We have to have assesst the following when considering an application for a zoo licence:

  • representations made by or on behalf of any of the persons mentioned in s3(2) of the Act
  • health and safety of persons living in the neighbourhood of the zoo
  • inspectors' reports
  • conservation measures
  • standards of accommodation, staffing or management for the proper care and wellbeing of the animals

Zoo inspections

The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 requires the inspection and licensing of all zoos in Great Britain. The Act itself does not actually provide a list of what are 'zoo animals'. There is guidance on what may be considered domestic and non-domestic for the purposes of the Zoo Licensing Act in the Government Circular 02/20003 pg67 but this list is for guidance only and not exhaustive.

Zoo inspections are required to extend to all features of the zoo directly or indirectly relevant to the health, welfare and safety of the public and the animals, including measure for the prevention and escape of animals. An inspection will also extend to the zoo's compliance with requirements on conservation and education.

The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 also takes into account the fact that zoos will vary greatly in size and nature of activity. Under this Act, there are various exemptions and dispensations which can be applied to avoid putting unnecessary work on very small establishments.

Contact the Business Regulation Team

Address: Town Hall
St Aldate's

Telephone: 01865 252862

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