To operate a zoo in Sunderland you must first obtain a licence from us.

A zoo is defined as an establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition, excluding circuses or pet shops, to which members of the public have access with or without charge, on more than seven days in any period of 12 consecutive months.

The council must attach conditions to the licence, having regard to the Secretary of States Standards of Modern Zoo Practice.

Eligibility criteria

Before applying to us for a zoo licence you must:

  • Give us, in writing, at least two months notice of your intention to make an application
  • Publish a notice of the intention in one local and one national newspaper
  • Display a copy of the published notice at the site of the proposed zoo

The notice of intention provided to us must identify:

  • The zoo's location
  • The types of animals and approximate number of each group kept for exhibition on the premises
  • The arrangements for the animals 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 conservation measures required by section 1A of the Act will be implemented at the zoo

Once you have served us the notice of intention, it will be available for public inspection free of charge at reasonable hours until the application is processed.

You will also need to consider whether planning permission is needed for your zoo. We may not be able to consider your zoo licence application until any planning issues have been resolved.

Application evaluation process

On receipt of your zoo licence application we are required to take into account any representations made by or on behalf of:

  • the applicant
  • the chief officer of police
  • the fire authority
  • the governing body of any national institution concerned with the operation of zoos
  • where part of the zoo is not situated in Sunderland, the planning authority for the relevant area
  • any person stating that the zoo would injuriously affect the health or safety of anyone living in the neighbourhood of the zoo
  • any other person who's representations might show grounds on which we have power or duty to refuse to grant a licence

Providing there are no objections from us, we would then inspect the zoo with a Defra nominated zoo inspector.

The zoo inspector will be checking whether the following conservation measures are in place:

  • participation in conservation measures
  • promoting public education and awareness
  • accommodating animals under conditions which aim to satisfy the biological and conservation requirements
  • preventing the escape of animals
  • pest control
  • record keeping

Before granting or refusing a license, we would first consider the zoo inspectors report and consult with you regarding the conditions that would be attached to the licence if it were granted.

Application fee

The fee for zoo licence is £194.50

An additional charge will be made to cover fees and expenses incurred by the Defra nominated zoo inspector required as part of the licence application. You will be recharged this cost after their veterinary report has been received.

Notify us of your intent to open a zoo in Sunderland

Apply for a zoo licence

Tell us about a change to an existing zoo licence

Renew an existing zoo licence

Will ''tacit consent'' apply?

Tacit consent does not apply to applications for zoos as the council must ensure that, should they be minded to grant an application:

  • The applicant is a fit and proper person
  • The premises are suitable for the boarding of animals

Our target completion period for applications for licences is 60 working days from the time when all documentation and fees have been submitted.

If you have not heard from us within this period, please contact City and Neighbourhood team


Failed application redress

Please contact our City and Neighbourhood team in the first instance.

If an application for a licence is refused, the applicant can appeal to a Magistrates' court within 21 days of notice of the decision.

An applicant also has the right to appeal to the Magistrates' court within the same time frame against any conditions attached to a licence.