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Zoo licensing guidance notes

Definition of a zoo

Zoos are regulated by the Council under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 and the Council works in close partnership with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on all aspects of zoo licensing.

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 wide scope of this definition means that licensed zoos range from:

  • traditional urban zoos
  • and safari parks

to small specialist collections such as:

  • butterfly houses
  • and aquaria.

The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (as amended) requires the inspection and licensing of all zoos in Great Britain. 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.

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