Zoo licence

We are responsible for licensing zoological parks within New Forest. There are currently three premises that hold a zoo licence.

A zoo is defined as being 'an establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition to which members of the public have access, with or without charge for admission, seven or more days in any period of twelve consecutive months'.

The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (as amended) requires the inspection and licensing of all zoos in the UK. The Act aims to ensure that where animals are kept in enclosures, they are provided with a suitable environment to provide an opportunity to express most normal behaviour.

On this page:

Before making an application

You must first provide in writing your intention to make an application. You must also publish a notice in a local and national newspaper. 

A copy of the notice must also be placed:

  • at the site for easy viewing
  • with us for public comment. 

Two months after the notification, you can apply. We will not be able to consider an application until any required has been granted.

To be eligible to hold a licence, an applicant must not be disqualified from or convicted of any offences under animal welfare or wildlife legislation at the time of the application.

We may consult interested parties such as the police, fire authority, public objections and/or a national institution concerned with the operation of zoos in the UK (for example, if it is an aquatic zoo, we will consult an aquatic zoo specialist). Other persons whose representations might be relevant can also be consulted.

Once this period of time has lapsed, an application can be submitted.

Apply for a zoo licence

You can apply for a zoo licence using the online form below.

As part of the application process, an inspection is carried out by a Secretary of State-appointed inspector who will produce a report of their findings. Based on the report and other considerations, we will grant or refuse to grant a licence.  The operator will receive a written statement of the grounds for any refusal.

You must wait for us to determine your application before a zoo may begin operating. 

It is in the public interest that we must process your application before it can be granted.


For the renewal of an existing licensed zoo, we will send an application form to the business. This should be returned to us six months prior to the licence expiring.


The fee charged for the zoo licence is based on the administrative costs of inspections and the issuing of the licence. You will also be recharged separately for DEFRA-appointed inspectors' fees for any formal inspections that take place during the licence period and on application.

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. We can seek a direction that the Act shall not apply at all (Section 14(1)(a)) or that a 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.

Length of licence

Each original licence will run for four years. Consecutive renewals will run for six years.

Periodic inspections, with Secretary of State-appointed inspectors, occur as a minimum:

  • at renewal stage (within the six months leading to the expiry date)
  • in the first year of the original licence
  • in the third year of the six-year period of a renewal.

We can also request a special inspection by an appointed competent person where concerns have arisen. In any calendar year where no other inspection has taken place, we will carry out an informal inspection.

Standards and conservation

Guidance on the operations of zoos is provided by the Secretary of State. This guidance should be met by licensed zoos.

Visit the GOV.UK website for the Standards of Modern Zoo Practice.

The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 specifies conservation measures that must be undertaken by the zoo. An issued licence will contain conditions relating to conservation, as well as model conditions issued by the Secretary of State which cover animal welfare, environmental issues and so on. We may also attach any conditions we may deem necessary of desirable for the proper conduct of the zoo.

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