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 City of Newcastle that falls within the above criteria, it will be necessary for you to make an application for and be granted a Licence.

How to Apply

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 at DEFRA, under the Wildlife and Pets homepage.

To see a copy of the Guidance published by DEFRA in September 2012 go to Zoo Licensing Guidance (pdf 689 kb)

To access the requisite pre-inspection audit go to audit (pdf 304 kb)

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 the City of Newcastle 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.

The City of Newcastle will consult the police, fire authority, governing body of any national institute concerned with zoos, the adjoining authority if the zoo overlaps the area of that authority, and any person wishing to object on grounds of alleged injurious effect on the health or safety of persons living in the area.

The authority will arrange an inspection by a consultant inspector from the list of suitable inspectors nominated by the Secretary of State. The inspector will produce a report of his findings and based on the report and other considerations the City of Newcastle will grant or refuse to grant a Licence. If a Licence is refused the operator will receive a written statement of the grounds for refusal.

Requests for application forms can be made by emailing: Telephone (0191) 2116121.

Alternatively, download the following forms:

The Licence will be issued subject to compliance with the Licence conditions and payment of the Licence fee.

There is an application fee payable upon application and subject to annual renewal. However, should we require the expertise of an animal specialist this may incur further costs at your expense before a Licence is issued.

The applicant

The City of Newcastle may refuse to grant a Licence if the applicant, or where the applicant is a body corporate, the body or any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body, or any person employed as a keeper in the zoo, has been convicted of an offence under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 or under any of the following for any other offence involving the ill-treatment of animals:

  • the Protection of Animals Acts 1911;
  • the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Acts 1912 to 1964;
  • the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925;
  • the Pet Animals Act 1951;
  • the Animals (Cruel Poisons) Act 1962;
  • the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963;
  • the Riding Establishments Act 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.
  • Sections 4, 5, 6(1) and (2), 7 to 9 and 11 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Planning requirements

Your application for a Licence will need to consider whether planning permission is required for the proposed licensed activity.  You should contact the Planning Authority via or telephone (0191) 2115654 to discuss whether permission will be needed.  The application for a Licence will not be processed until the planning issue has been decided.


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. A copy of the Licence must be displayed at every public entrance of the establishment.

Changes to the Licence, for example name changes, and ownership changes can be undertaken at the request of the operator and a Licence can be transferred to another person with the approval of the City of Newcastle.

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 will not reduce the zoo's obligation to achieve the levels of animal welfare and public safety set out in the Secretary of State's Standards.

What conditions will be attached to a licence?

The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 specifies various conservation measures etc that must be undertaken by a zoo and these will be attached as conditions.

The City of Newcastle also has discretion to attach any condition(s) deemed necessary or desirable for the proper conduct of the zoo.

The Secretary of State issues guidance of standards of practice that zoos should meet which apply in England. Copies of the Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice are available from DEFRA

Inspection types

i)Periodic inspections

Periodic inspections undertaken by Secretary of State appointed inspectors will take place at the following intervals:

  • in the case of an original Licence an inspection will be carried out in the first year and no later than six months before the end of the fourth year;
  • in case of a renewal inspection in the third year and no later than six months before the end of the sixth year.

Not more than three inspectors appointed by the City of Newcastle will to visit the premises, and at least one of these will be a qualified Veterinary Surgeon or practitioner and up to two may be nominated from the Secretary of State approved list, only one is necessary if they fulfill both of the requirements above.

The City of Newcastle will give the applicant at least 28 days notice of their intention to inspect the premises and will inform the operator of the names of the inspectors. The operator can in turn appeal against all or any of them.

The zoo operator may allow three representatives to accompany the inspection team. The inspection team will submit a report to the City of Newcastle who will in turn send a copy to the operator within a month of its receipt.

ii) Special inspections

The City of Newcastle has the right to make special inspections in any circumstances which in their opinion call for investigation. The zoo operator must be given notice of the purpose and scope of the inspection and if the investigation involves animal inspection, at least one inspector will be a qualified vet with experience of zoos and zoo animals.

iii) Informal inspections

In any calendar year where no other inspection has taken place, an informal inspection will be carried out by an appointed person from the City of Newcastle.

Renewing a Licence

The City of Newcastle will give a licence holder at least nine months notice of the expiry date of the Licence.

The application to renew the Licence should be made at least six months before the expiry of the existing Licence.

If a request is made at least six months before the Licence, expires the City of Newcastle will be able to extend a Licence without inspection for up to six years beginning at the expiry of the original Licence.

Records required to be kept

The records required to be kept by a zoo will be largely dependent on the conditions imposed on a particular operator, however typical requirements include providing the City of Newcastle with a copy of a zoos public liability insurance, annual stock list, intention of providing hazardous animals.

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, 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

Rights 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.

Will Tacit Consent Apply?

No.  It is in the public interest that the authority must process your application before it can be granted.  If you have not heard from the local authority within a reasonable period, please contact it using the contact details below.

Useful Links

Go to the website of the Department for Food and Rural Affairs at DEFRA

To see a copy of the Guidance published by DEFRA in September 2012 go to Zoo Licensing Guidance (pdf 689 kb)

Copies of the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 and other legislation mentioned on this page can be purchased from Her Majesty's Stationery Office or can be accessed at

A copy of the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 can be viewed at the Trading Standards Service, Directorate of Operations and Regulatory Services, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne where you may also obtain the requisite application forms and further help or advice.

Contact Details

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For further information or clarification please contact the:
Trading Standards Service, Directorate of Operations and Regulatory Services, City of Newcastle upon Tyne, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH.

E mail: Phone 0191 2116121

Page last updated: 
27 September 2018
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