Zoo licence

A licence is required to keep a zoo, which is defined as an establishment where wild animals (animals not normally domesticated in Great Britain) are kept for exhibition to the public otherwise than for purposes of a circus and otherwise than in a pet shop. The licensing of zoos is a specialist field and the regulations are complex. If you are thinking of setting up a zoo, we recommend that you contact a specialist officer first for advice and guidance.

Eligibility criteria

We may refuse to grant a licence if the applicant or keeper in the zoo has been convicted under any offence involving the ill-treatment of animals, including:

  •  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

Application process

Application forms and current fee are available from the Environmental Health Team via Contact Harlow.

You must give notification of intention to operate a zoo. At least two months before making an application for a zoo licence, you must:

  • give notice in writing to us of your intention to make the application
  • publish a notice of that intention in one local newspaper circulating in the locality
  • publish a notice in one newspaper with a national circulation and
  • exhibit a copy of that notice at the site.

The notice must specify the kinds of animals, approximate numbers and the arrangements for their accommodation, maintenance and wellbeing. Details of staff and visitor numbers must also be included, with details of means of access to the premises, and also details of how conservation measures will be implemented at the zoo.

When considering the application, we will take into account any representations received from the following:

  • the applicant;
  • the chief officer of police
  • the fire authority
  • the governing body of any national institution concerned with the operation of zoos;
  • the planning authority
  • any person alleging that the establishment or continuance of the zoo would injuriously affect the health or safety of persons living in the neighbourhood of the zoo;
  • any other person whose representations might, in the opinion of the local authority, show grounds on which the authority has a power or duty to refuse to grant a licence.

We shall also consider a report made in respect of an inspection of the zoo.

Can I appeal if my application is refused?

Please contact Harlow Council in the first instance. Any applicant who is refused a licence or wants to object to a condition on the licence can appeal to their local magistrates' court within 21 days of receiving notice of the decision.

Complaints about zoos

If you wish to complain that a zoo in Harlow is causing a nuisance, or if you believe that there has been a breach of licence conditions, please contact us at Contact Harllow.

There is currently one zoo licence issued by Harlow Council.