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The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 came into force in 1984. The act requires the inspection and licensing of all zoos in Great Britain. The act aims to ensure that, where animals are kept in caged surroundings, they are provided with a suitable environment to provide an opportunity to express most normal behaviour. Zoos must comply with both the provisions of the act, and with the requirements set out in the Secretary of State's standards of modern zoo practice.
Responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the licensing system rests with the council as licensing authority. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has responsibility for maintaining a list of zoo inspectors and setting detailed standards for zoo management with which zoos are expected to comply.
The Secretary of State has a two-part list of inspectors that he can call on to inspect the zoos. The first part contains names of veterinary surgeons and veterinary practitioners who have experience of zoo animals. The second part lists persons who are competent (in the Secretary of the State's opinion) to inspect animals in zoos, to advise on their welfare and to advise on general zoo management issues. Inspectors' expenses are paid by the licensing authority, and recharged to the owner of the zoo.
A zoo is defined in the act 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, on more than seven 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 act recognises this wide range of establishments by allowing dispensations to be granted for small zoos. Dispensations for these types of collection are purely to reduce the number of inspectors to a reasonable level for a small establishment, and do not in any way weaken a zoo's obligation to achieve the levels of animal welfare and modern public safety set out in the Secretary of State's standards. The act does not extend to circuses, or to pet shops, both of which are covered by other (Home Office) legislation.
At least two months before making an application, you must provide a notice to the council that you intend to apply for a zoo licence using part 2 of the prescribed form (see document link). A copy of this notice must be displayed on the proposed site informing interested parties that all correspondence submitted as part of the application can be inspected in the council offices in Wesley House, Corporation Street, St Helens. Notification of intention to apply for a zoo licence must also be published in one local and one nationally circulated newspaper.
Once the notification period has expired, an application can then be made.
All applications must be submitted on the prescribed application form (see document link) together with the fee (amount available upon application).
This service has been identified as a formality within the scope of the European Services Directive and consequently there is a facility to submit your application and pay the relevant fee electronically. To carry out this task, please download the Word document and complete offline. Once completed, resubmit via the file upload facility within the online form. Please follow the instructions carefully as you may be required to register to use our online services.
Once your application has been validated, an Environmental Health officer will contact to you to arrange the necessary inspection of the premises.
It is your responsibility to renew the licence but the licensing authority will, as a courtesy, send an invitation to renew notice approximately one month before the expiry of the licence.
If you wish to make any changes to the premises licence, or details of the licence holder change, please contact us for further advice.
It is in the public interest that the licensing authority must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from the authority within 10 working days of the application being deposited, please email Environmental Health for a progress report.
If you have any complaint about the application procedure of the operation of any licensed premises, you should initially contact the Council's Environmental Health section on 01744 676338 or email Environmental Health.