Zoo licence

To run a zoo, you need a licence from Argyll and Bute Council issued under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981.

 Zoo Licensing Act 1981.

If you are interested in establishing a zoo, you are advised to discuss this with Animal Health and complete the Pre-Inspection Audit (supplied by Defra).

Completing your application

How to apply

You can apply for a Zoo Licence by downloading and returning the application form below

Apply for a zoo licence (pdf)

however you are advised to contact Animal Health to discuss your proposals before submitting an application.

Please note: Zoo licences are not transferable.  You will need to re-apply in your own name. The zoo licence can only be held by an individual, not a company.

The information you supply on this form will be used for the purpose for which you have provided it, and appropriate measures are in place to protect your personal data.  A full privacy notice, which provides information about your rights under current data protection legislation and details about what will happen to your personal data can be found here:


There is an application fee of £1,233.05 which must be paid at the time an application is made.

The licence is valid for four years, commencing from the date printed on the licence. A fresh licence granted to the holder of an existing licence shall be granted for a period of six years beginning with the end of the period of the existing licence.

Contact Us

You can contact us using our online enquiry form

By post at:

Argyll and Bute Council
Regulatory Services
PA31 8RT

Or phone: 01546 605519

Eligibility criteria

Before we can grant a licence for a zoo in the area we must be satisfied that:

  • the establishment will not have a detrimental affect on 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.

We may refuse to grant a licence if the applicant, or where the applicant is a corporate body, 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 for other offence involving the ill-treatment of animals.
At least two months before making an application for a licence, the applicant must give notice in writing (including by electronic means) to Argyll and Bute Council 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 our offices.

The application process

Before deciding on an application we will consult the police, fire authority and any governing bodies of any national institute concerned with zoos. We will also consult with the adjoining authority of any areas the zoo may overlap with; and any person wishing to object on grounds of alleged detrimental effect on the health or safety of persons living in the area.

Before granting or refusing to grant the licence, we shall:

  • Make arrangements for an inspection to be carried out, (at least 28 days notice of the inspection shall be provided by the local authority)
  • Consider any inspectors' reports based on their inspection of the zoo,
  • Attach any conditions that they propose to the licence and consult with the applicant on these.

We will not grant the licence if:

  • We feel that the zoo would adversely affect the health or safety of people living in or near it,
  • or seriously affect the preservation of law and order;
  • or if we are not satisfied that appropriate conservation measures would be satisfactorily implemented.

An application may also be refused if:

  • We are not satisfied that accommodation, staffing or management standards are suitable for the proper care and wellbeing of the animals or for the proper conduct of the zoo
  • the applicant, or if the applicant is an incorporated company, the company or any of the company's directors, managers, secretaries or other similar officers, or a keeper in the zoo, has been convicted of any offence involving the ill-treatment of animals.


We have a target date for dealing with these applications which is 56 days. You can not assume your application has been granted once this time period has expired. If you have not heard from us within 56 days please contact us.  Please note that under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (as amended), the application must be approved by one or two registered Zoo inspectors (depending on size and complexity of the business) and by officers of the Local Authority.  The length of time to make this determination varies considerably.

Applications to renew a licence will be considered no later than six months before the expiry of the existing licence, unless a shorter time period is allowed by the local authority.

The Secretary of State, after consulting with ourselves, may direct us to attach one or more conditions to a licence.

We may advise the Secretary of State that, because of the small number of animals kept in the zoo or the small number of the kinds of animal kept there, a direction should be made that that a licence is not required.

Objections or representations

If you have been refused a licence you may appeal to the Sheriff Court. 

Sheriff Principal of North Strathclyde, Paisley Sheriff Court, St James Street, Paisley, PA3 2AW.

They may give directions regarding the licence or its conditions as it sees fit.

A licence holder may also appeal to the Sheriff Court against:

  • any condition attached to a licence or any variation or cancellation of a condition
  • the refusal to approve the transfer of a licence
  • a zoo closure direction
  • enforcement steps relating to any unmet condition 

The appeal must be brought within 28 days from the date on which the licence holder receives written notification of the authority's decision as to the relevant matter.

If you do not have a licence or do not comply with any of the conditions, you may be prosecuted, fined up to a fine of level 4 (currently £2,500).


If you wish to complain about the welfare of the animals, nuisance caused by the operation of a zoo etc. or are one licence holder wishing to complain about another please contact us.

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