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To run a zoo in England, Scotland and Wales, you need a licence from the local authority. 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.

Eligibility Criteria

At least two months before making an application for a licence, the applicant must give notice in writing (including by electronic means) to the local authority of their 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

At least two months before making the application, the applicant 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 the local authority is available to be inspected at the local authority offices.

Regulation Summary

  • Zoo licensing Act 1981

  • Secretary of State - Standards of Modern Zoo Practice

  • DEFRA: Approved Code of Practice - Zoos - Safety, Health and Welfare Standards for Employers and Persons at Work (ISBN 0 11 883823 7)

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 other than for purposes of a circus and other than in a pet shop (separate licences are required). This act applies to any zoo to which members of the public have access, with or without a charge for admission, on more than seven days in any period of 12 consecutive months.

If you intend to operate an establishment in the borough of Dudley 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 required an Exotic, Dangerous and Wild Animals Licence.

The licensing of zoos is a specialist field and the regulations are complex. We work in close partnership with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Details on the legislation and the Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice can be found on the DEFRA website under the Wildlife and Pets home page.

If you are thinking of setting up a zoo, it is recommended that you contact us first for advice and guidance. The local authority cannot consider an application unless at least two months notice of the application has been given, plus publication of details in a local and national newspaper, and a notice placed at the site. Once this period of time has lapsed, an application form can be submitted along with the current fee.

Before Dudley Council can grant a licence for a zoo in its area it must be satisfied that:

  • the establishment will not injuriously affect the health and safety of persons living in the neighbourhood;
  • the establishment will not affect the preservation of law and order;
  • the accommodation, staffing and management are adequate for the proper care and well-being of the animals.

Planning Requirements

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

How much does it cost?

There is an application fee which must be paid at the time an application is made. The application fees normally changes annually so for this year's fee please view the fee information.

Veterinary and other costs reasonably incurred in considering any application will be invoiced after consideration of any application. When you receive your invoice the payment methods are detailed on the back of all invoices and reminders. The options include: pay online, by phone, by post or in person at Dudley Council Plus.

How can I apply?

Please download and complete the appropriate Word or PDF version of the application form first from the options below. Once done, submit your completed application form and other relevant documentation.

How long will my application take to process?

We aim to process your application as soon as possible. We will confirm for all electronic applications via email that we have received your application. Please contact us if you have any queries about the process us.

Can I start trading before receiving my licence (i.e. will tacit consent apply)?

You cannot start trading until your application is processed by the Council and you have received a licence. It is in the public interest that we must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from us within 21 days, please contact us.

How long does my licence last?

Each original licence will run for four years, consecutive renewals will run for six years. Failure or late application for renewal may invalidate any public liability insurance for the premises.

Changes to the licence i.e. name changes, ownership changes can be undertaken at the request of the operator, however a charge may be required. A licence can be transferred to another person with the approval of the local authority. On the death of the holder of a licence, the personal representatives of the deceased are deemed to be the holders during a three month period following the death, or longer with our approval.

For small zoos or for a zoo exhibiting only a small number of different kinds of animals the Secretary of State has powers to relax the requirements of the Act. The local authority can seek a direction that the Act shall not apply at all (Section 14(1)(a)) or that certain category of inspection is not required (Section 14(1)(b)).

Alternatively, the zoo operator, on applying to the Secretary of State for a zoo licence, may be granted a dispensation (Section 14(2)) to reduce the number of inspectors to a reasonable level for a small establishment. This doesn’t reduce the zoo’s obligation to achieve the levels of animal welfare and public safety set out in the Secretary of State’s Standards.

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.


Periodic inspections, with Secretary of State appointed inspectors, occur as a minimum at renewal stage (i.e within the six months leading to the expiry date) and in the first year of the original licence and in the third year of the six-year period. The local authority can request a special inspection by an appointed competent person where concerns have arisen. In any calendar year where no other inspection has taken place, an informal inspection is carried out by an appointed person from 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).

Public Register of Zoos

The registered zoos in the borough are as follows:

  • Dudley Zoo and Castle 
    2 The Broadway,
    West Midlands
    DY1 4QB
    Tel 01384 215313

    Set in the grounds of Dudley Castle, the zoo is home to some of the biggest, rarest and most exotic animals, lots of animals to see.

  • Brockswood Animal Sanctuary
    Catholic Lane, 
    West Midlands, 
    DY3 3YE. 
    Tel 01902 884390

Power of Entry

Local authority officers, authorised in writing for this purpose and accompanied by the appointed veterinary surgeon may inspect zoo premises having given 28 days notice in writing. There is currently no power of entry to unlicensed premises.

Right of appeal

Any person aggrieved by a refusal to be granted a licence or by any conditions to which a licence is subject may appeal to the Magistrates Courts who may give such directions regarding the licence or its conditions as it thinks proper.

How do I complain about a local business?

We will investigate complaints of poor animal welfare or conditions in a commercial business within the Borough.

If you have a general concern about the welfare of an animal and want to complain about business in Dudley Borough, please can use the Animal Welfare Advice and Complaints form.

Alternatively, you can report the matter directly to the RSPCA.

Making a complaint

If you feel we have failed to provide you with good service or are concerned about the progress of your application, please contact us and we will endeavor to resolve any concerns you may have. We also have a formal complaints procedure.

Trade Association

Further Information

For general information about licensing of zoos please contact the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

If you would like further advice about the standards or practices within a local business please use the Animal Welfare Advice and Complaints form.

Fee Information

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