Skip to main content
Luton Borough Council

Zoo licensing

The welfare of all domestic and captive animals in this country is provided for in various statutes and Luton Council is responsible for the administration and issuing of a number of licenses relating to animals.

Relevant legislation: The Zoo Licensing Act 1981, The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (Amendment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2002 and the Animal Welfare Act 2006

Do I need a licence?
A zoo licence is needed if wild animals are exhibited to the general public on seven or more days in any 12 consecutive months. There are exemptions for circuses, pet shops and any individual premises where the Secretary of State issues a direction that the act should not apply.

What are the conditions of the licence?
The conditions that accompany a zoo licence can be obtained on request. However, in summary the following information forms part of the zoo licence conditions and they MAY state:

  • the precautions to be taken against escape of animals and steps to be taken in the event of any escape or unauthorised release
  • the records to be kept of numbers of different animals acquisitions, births, deaths, disposals or escapes and the cause of any such death and of the health of animals
  • insurance against liability for damage caused by animals
  • any other matter that the Secretary of State may decide
  • the condition shall not relate primarily to health, safety or welfare of persons working in the zoo

The Secretary of State produced updated standards of modern zoo practice in March 2000.

The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (Amendment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2002 put new enforcement powers into effect to secure the aims and objectives of European Council Directive 19999/22/EC, available to download below. These regulations came into effect on 8 January 2003.

To ensure that all zoos work towards the new standards the council advises that new zoos would be audited against them including renewal inspections.

Applicants for the renewal of a zoo licence and all new applicants are required to demonstrate how they meet the key areas contained in the Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice which reflect the following five principles:

  • provision of food and water
  • provision of a suitable habitat
  • provision of suitable animal healthcare
  • provision of an opportunity to express most normal behaviour
  • provision of protection from fear and distress

Participation in conservation measures such as:

  • research of benefit to the conservation of species
  • training in relevant conservation skills
  • exchange of information relating to species conservation
  • captive breeding and repopulating or re-introduction of species to the wild
  • promoting public education and awareness in relation to the conservation of biodiversity, with particular emphasis on providing information about the species exhibited and their natural habitats

Accommodating their animals under conditions that aim to satisfy the biological and conservation requirements of individual species by providing:

  • species specific enrichment of the enclosures
  • a high standard of animal husbandry
  • a developed programme of preventative and curative veterinary care and nutrition
  • preventing animal escapes to:
    • avoid possible ecological threats to indigenous species and prevent intrusion of outside pests and vermin.
    • keep up to date records of the Zoo collection

Officers rely upon the expertise of zoo inspectors appointed by the Secretary of State in the interpretation of the standards during statutory inspections.

Authorised Environmental Health Officers carry out annual inspections to ensure that licence conditions are adhered to and satisfactory progress is made where the appointed Veterinary Officer identifies the need for improvement.

A copy of the licence conditions can be supplied on request via the contact details below.

The officers also ensure the health and safety of employees, the self employed and the public using additional powers under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 where necessary.

The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (Amendment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2002 amended the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 to meet the new key areas and provide additional powers to:

  • close
  • partially close
  • confiscate, direct animals to be disposed of or removed from the collection if they are not being kept in accordance with the licensing conditions
  • issue directions requiring compliance with a licensing condition
  • specify that conditions must be achieved within a period
  • refuse, modify, extend or withdraw a licence

Be satisfied as to the arrangements for disposal or future care of animals in the event of zoo closure or part closure.

How do I make an application and how much does it cost?

Apply online
Apply for a licence for a zoo

Tell us about a change to your existing zoo licence

How long will it take to process my application?
Due to the complexity of this licensing process, we ask that you contact Environmental Health to discuss any proposed application at least 90 days before you wish the operation to commence.

To see what tacit authorisation is and find out if it applies to your application click on the download below.

Anyone wishing to apply, transfer or renew a zoo Licence should contact Environmental Health who will outline the procedures to be followed and provide the applicant with the appropriate application forms.

Any new zoos will also require planning approval, for details of the current fees please contact us using the details below.

Advice for the public
There are currently no licensed zoo’s within the borough of Luton.

The current register of other animal licences held is available to download below.

What information or evidence will I need to provide?
Any information required to progress your application will be requested by the relevant application form itself but may include evidence to show the insurance, membership to professional bodies, any qualifications of competence, proof of where animals are sourced from.

However, dependent on the findings of the inspection by us or other authorised person such as a veterinary surgeon and zoo inspectors, further information or clarification may be requested prior to granting a licence or registration.

Are there inspections or assessments?
Yes, prior to granting a licence an inspection of the premises will be made by council officers, veterinary surgeons and zoo inspectors.

There are three types of inspection, available to download below.

If I’m turned down, how do I appeal?
A licence can be refused by the local authority if:

  • the establishment or continuance of the zoo would injuriously affect the health or safety of persons living in the neighbourhood of the zoo, or seriously affect the preservation of law and order
  • they are not satisfied that the conservation measures referred to in section 1A of the 1981 Act will be implemented in a satisfactory manner at the zoo
  • 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 1981 Act or under any of the enactments mentioned in Section 4 (5) of the 1981 Act or of any other offence involving the ill-treatment of animals
  • they are not satisfied that any planning permission required under Part III of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, for the establishment of the zoo or for the continuance of the zoo during the period for which the licence would be in force, has been, or is deemed to be, granted

Any person aggrieved by our refusal to grant such a licence, or by any condition subject to which such a licence is proposed to be granted, may appeal to a Magistrates Court within six months. The applicant would be given all details on how to appeal on such an occurrence.

A local authority can request from the Secretary of State that due to the small size of the zoo or the small number of animal types kept there, to direct that the Act does not apply or that it is not necessary for periodical and special inspections to be carried out.

The Secretary of State may, after consulting such persons as he thinks fit, determine if these dispensations may be allowed.

The operator of the zoo may request the Secretary of State to reduce the number of inspectors for periodical inspections having regard to the size of the zoo or the small number of animals kept there.

The Secretary of State may nominate the persons to inspect the zoo, if so the operator's right to object shall not apply.

This may be reviewed by the Secretary of State

How long will the licence last and what’s the renewal procedure?
A new licence will be granted for four years from the date on the licence. If the licence is a renewal it will be six years from the end of existing licence.

An application for renewal must be made not later than six months before the end of the period of the licence, accompanied by the set fee.

The local authority may either:

  • extend time period of the existing licence
  • direct the applicant to apply for a fresh licence

Transfer of licence
Transfer of the licence to another person is possible, subject to certain conditions.

If your application is refused
Any person aggrieved by our refusal to grant such a licence, or by any condition subject to which such a licence is proposed to be granted, the applicant can appeal to the Magistrates Court against the decision within 28 days of receiving written notification of the authority’s decision.

If you wish to make a complaint about our service, please follow our complaints policy and procedure.


Contact info
Licensing Service
Luton Borough Council Town Hall George Street Luton LU1 2BQ
Tel: 01582 546040

[email protected]


© 2024 Luton Council, Town Hall, Luton LU1 2BQ