Zoo licence

About zoo licences

Summary of requirements

To run a zoo in Wandsworth, you need a licence from Wandsworth Council.

The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 defines a zoo:

"[as] an establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition to the public otherwise than for the purposes of a circus and otherwise than as a pet shop; and this Act applies to any zoo to which members of the public have access, with or without charge for admission, on more than seven days in any period of 12 consecutive months".

We work in close partnership with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on all aspects of zoo licensing.

The licensing of zoos is quite complex and you are encouraged to contact us at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss your proposals.

Currently, Wandsworth Council licences one zoo within the borough, namely Battersea Park Children's Zoo. 

A licence will be granted initially for a period of four years and any subsequent licence for a period of six years. Conditions shall be attached to the licence concerning conservation measures and any directed by the Secretary of State. Further conditions may be attached ensuring the proper conduct of the zoo, including insurance for liability for damage by the animals. 

Visit the fees and charges page for full details of the fees for this licence.

Where an application for a licence is refused then the fee element covering the required periodic visits by the officer from the Corporation of London's veterinary service and DEFRA appointed veterinary officers will be refunded, less the administrative charge for the refund process.

Eligibility criteria

At least two months before making an application for a licence, the applicant must give notice in writing (including by electronic means) to Wandsworth 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 the means 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 at the site. The notice must identify the location of the zoo and state that the application is available to be inspected at the local authority offices.

When considering an application, the council shall take into account any representations made by or on behalf of:

  • the applicant
  • the Metropolitan Police
  • the fire authority
  • the governing body of any national institution concerned with the operation of zoos
  • any person alleging that the zoo would affect the health or safety of people living in the neighbourhood
  • any other person whose representations might show grounds on which the authority has a power or duty to refuse to grant a licence

Before granting or refusing to grant the licence, the council shall consider any inspectors' reports based on their inspection of the zoo, consult the applicant about any conditions they propose should be attached to the licence and make arrangements for an inspection to be carried out. At least 28 days notice of the inspection shall be provided by the local authority.

The council will not grant the licence if they feel that the zoo would adversely affect the health or safety of people living in near it, or seriously affect the preservation of law and order or if they are not satisfied that appropriate conservation measures would be satisfactorily implemented.

An application may also be refused if:

  • the council 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
  • that the necessary planning permission is not in place

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 council.

Application evaluation process

When considering an application, the council shall take into account any representations made by or on behalf of:

  • the applicant
  • the Metropolitan Police
  • the fire authority
  • the governing body of any national institution concerned with the operation of zoos
  • any person alleging that the zoo would affect the health or safety of people living in the neighbourhood
  • any other person whose representations might show grounds on which the authority has a power or duty to refuse to grant a licence

Before granting or refusing to grant the licence, the council shall consider any inspectors' reports based on their inspection of the zoo, consult the applicant about any conditions they propose should be attached to the licence, and make arrangements for an inspection to be carried out. At least 28 days notice of the inspection shall be provided by the local authority.

The council will not grant the licence if they feel that the zoo would adversely affect the health or safety of people living in near it, or seriously affect the preservation of law and order or if they are not satisfied that appropriate conservation measures would be satisfactorily implemented.

An application may also be refused if:

  • the council 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
  • that the necessary planning permission is not in place

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 council.

Will tacit consent apply?

No. It is in the public interest that we must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from Wandsworth Council within a reasonable period, please contact us. You can do this online if you applied through the UK Welcomes service or use the contact details below.

What can I do if my application is refused?

If you are refused a licence, you may appeal to the South Western Magistrates' Court (address below) within 28 days from the date on which you receive written notification of the refusal.

South Western Magistrates' Court
176a Lavender Hill
London SW11 1JU

What if I am unhappy with a condition imposed?

In the first instance, contact the Licensing Team.

A licence holder may appeal to the South Western Magistrates' Court, Lavender Hill, London SW11 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.

What to do if you have a query about your licence

If you have a query about a licence issued by us, contact the Licensing Team.

European services directive

If you think that the council has not complied with the European services directive by imposing requirements or conditions in respect of your application that are discriminatory, unfair or disproportionate, contact the UK SOLVIT Centre.

Complaints about a zoo

If you are concerned about other matters relating to a zoo, you can report it online.  

Health and safety

Before setting up any business in the UK, you must ensure that it will comply with the relevant health and safety regulations. 

Further information on health and safety.