Zoo licence

A zoo licence is required if you operate an establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition, to which members of the public have access, with or without charge for admission, on more than seven dates in any period of twelve months.

Any person can make an application for a zoo licence provided you comply with the conditions. 


To be able to apply for a zoo licence you must not have been convicted of an offence in terms of the Zoo Licensing Act 1981, or in terms of any of the following or any other offence involving the ill-treatment of animals, at the time of application. 

The licensing of zoos is a specialist field and the regulations are complex. If you are thinking of setting up a zoo, it is recommended that you contact your Environmental Health office at the earliest possible stage for advice and guidance.

Mandatory conditions will attach to your licence; in any case you must:

  • participate in research from conservation benefits accrue to species of wild animals and/or training in relevant conservation skills and/or the exchange of information relating to the conservation of species of  wild animals and/or the breeding of wild animals in captivity and/or the re-population of an area with, or the re-introduction into the wild of, wild animals 
  • promote public education and awareness about biodiversity conservation
  • accommodate and keep the animals in a manner consistent with the standards set out in the Secretary of State’s Standards of Modern Zoo Practice
  • prevent escapes and put in place measures to be taken in the event of any escape or unauthorised release of animals
  • introduce practical measures designed to prevent the  intrusion of pests and vermin into the premises of the zoo
  • keep up-­to-­date  records  of the  animals, including numbers of different animals, acquisitions, births, deaths, disposals  and escapes, causes of deaths and the health of the animals

The conditions (PDF 58.5KB) set out by the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 details specific conditions that you may have to comply with depending on your particular activities. 

Before you apply

At least two months before making an application, you must:

  • give notice in writing (including by electronic means) to the local authority of your intention to make the application
  • publish a notice of your intention to apply for a zoo licence in one local newspaper and one national newspaper and exhibit a copy of that notice 

The notice you publish 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 the required conservation measures will be implemented at the zoo

The notice must also state that the application notice to the local authority is available to be inspected at the local authority offices.

You will need to lodge layout plans of the premises with your application. Plans lodged electronically should be in PDF format and be capable of being printed to scale on either A4 or A3 paper.

Application fee

The fee for an application to grant a zoo licence is £338. It costs £338 to renew your existing licence or to transfer it.

The fee must be paid at the same time the application for the licence is lodged with us. The application will not be considered competent until the fee is paid.

The fee is non-refundable. You can pay by either:

Unfortunately we are unable to accept payment by BACs, cheques or cash.

As per Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (Section 15, 2A), we will also recover reasonable expenses we might incur for inspections (including vets' fees), making directions, supervising the implementation of plans, etc. 

How to apply

To make an application for a zoo licence, download and complete the appropriate application form and notice of intention: 

Please send your competed form by email to or by post to, please note physical mail is only checked once a week:

Aberdeenshire Council
Legal and People
Arduthie Road
AB39 2DQ

If you are unable to complete the forms, please call us and we will assist you to apply over the telephone.

Application process

Completed application forms should always be accompanied by the requested information and documentation listed at the end of the application form. Failure to provide the necessary information and documentation, or the application fee, will result in the inability to further process the application.

Full approval will not be granted until the required information and documentation has been provided, examined and deemed satisfactory, and the application has been fully processed.

The application will be forwarded to Police Scotland, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Environmental Health for comment.

We will also appoint two independent inspectors, who will report on the application after inspection of the premises.

All applications will be referred to the appropriate committee for consideration.