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Durham County Council

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Zoo licence


To operate a zoo in County Durham you must first obtain a licence from us to do so.

A zoo is defined as an establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition, excluding circuses or pet shops, to which members of the public can access with or without charge, on more than seven days in any period of 12 consecutive months.

The need for a licence is a requirement under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981.

A list of animals for which a zoo licence may be required and the standards that need to be met can be found in The Secretary of States Modern Zoo Practice.

We can also ask for direction to be made by the Secretary of State that a licence is not required on the basis of a small number of animals being kept in the zoo.

Eligibility criteria

Before applying to us for a zoo licence you must give us, in writing, at least two months notice of your intention to make an application, and publish a notice of the intention in at least one local and one national newspaper. The notice provided to us 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 ways of access to be provided to the premises
  • how required conservation measures will be implemented at the zoo.

Once you have served us notice, we will display the notice for public viewing.

You will also need to consider whether planning permission is needed for your zoo. Information on this should be sought from our Planning service. We may not be able to consider your zoo licence application until any planning issues have been resolved.

Application process

Application forms can be requested using the details at the foot of this page; otherwise you can download a form below. The application form details the conditions on which the licence will be granted.

On receipt of your zoo licence application we will take into account any representations made by or on behalf of:

  • the applicant
  • the chief officer of Durham Constabulary
  • 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 County Durham, the planning authority for the relevant area
  • any person stating that the zoo would affect the health or safety of anyone living near it
  • any other person who's representations might show grounds on which we have power or duty to refuse to grant a licence.

Providing there are no objections received, an inspection of your premises will take place with the following people present:

  • representatives from your business
  • a veterinary surgeon nominated by the Zoo Inspectorate
  • an officer from the Community & Animal Health Team of this authority
  • an officer from the Occupational Safety & Health Team of this authority.

The veterinary surgeon will be checking whether the following conservation measures are in place:

  • participation in conservation measures
  • promoting public education and awareness
  • accommodating animals under conditions which aim to satisfy the biological and conservation requirements
  • preventing the escape of animals
  • pest control
  • record keeping.

Before granting or refusing a license we would first consider the veterinary surgeon's report and consult with you regarding the conditions that would be attached to the licence if it were granted. 

The process for granting a licence for a zoo has a number of stages to complete which may take some time. However, when this authority is in receipt of a satisfactory veterinary report and in a position to grant a licence, this licence will be issued within seven working days. 

Applicable fees

The cost of a zoo licence is £715 and is valid for four years. A subsequent renewal costs £640 and is valid for six years.

In addition to the licence fee, vets fees should they be incurred are also payable during the application process. Due to the variation in fees between vets and the unique work that is required to support each application, we are unable to specify costs.

Circumstances in which a licence will not be granted

We will not be able to grant a licence if we consider that:

  • The zoo would adversely affect the health or safety of people living near it.
  • Appropriate conservation measures will not be satisfactorily implemented.
  • Accommodation, staffing or management standards are not suitable for the proper care and wellbeing of the animals or for the proper conduct of the zoo.
  • The applicant (or any other senior officers in the case of an application made by a limited company), or a keeper in the zoo has been convicted of any offence involving the ill-treatment of animals.

Apply online

Apply by post

Complaints and advice

If you require any further information or advice regarding your application, have concerns regarding an existing zoo, or in the event of a complaint, please contact us.

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