You can't apply for this licence online. Contact your local council.


If you want to run a zoo apply to Department of the Environment Northern Ireland (DOE).

You’ll need a zoo licence if you’ll be displaying wild animals to the public for at least 7 days a year, in any place that’s not a circus or pet shop.


To get a licence your zoo must:

  • help educate people about biodiversity
  • be suitable for the types of animals you’re keeping
  • have a high standard of animal care
  • do as much as possible to stop any animals escaping
  • stop pests and vermin getting into the zoo

You must also do at least 1 of the following:

  • conservation research or training
  • sharing conservation information
  • captive animal breeding
  • helping repopulate or reintroduce species into the wild

You won’t get a licence if the zoo doesn’t meet these standards.

You may not get a licence if anyone working in or managing the zoo has committed an animal welfare offence.

How to apply

Write to DOE at least 2 months notice before applying.

You must give details about:

  • where the zoo will be
  • what kind of animals you’re going to keep and how many
  • how you’ll house and care for the animals
  • staff numbers and what they’ll be doing
  • expected visitor and vehicle numbers
  • zoo entrance and exit points
  • how you’ll meet the conservation conditions

Your must also:

  • publish notice that you’re intending to apply in at least 2 national newspapers
  • display the notice at the planned zoo site
  • send a copy to DOE

Zoo inspection

Before you get your licence your premises will be inspected and you’ll then be told the conditions of your licence.

You’ll get at least 28 days’ notice before the inspection.

After you get a licence you’ll be inspected regularly to make sure you’re following these conditions.

You must keep records on conservation measures, animal health, numbers and species, acquisitions, births, deaths (with causes), disposals and escapes.

Your zoo could be closed if:

  • you don’t follow your licence conditions
  • the public don’t have enough access to the zoo

Renewing your licence

Your licence will need to be renewed after 4 years. You might have to follow the same process you used to get the original licence.

If you get your licence renewed it’ll then last for 6 years. You’ll need to apply to renew it again 6 months before it expires.

Transferring your licence

If you want to transfer your licence to someone DOE will have to approve it first.

Displaying your licence

You must display your licence or a copy of it at each entrance to the zoo.

Fines and penalties

You could get a fine if you run a zoo without a licence or don’t follow the conditions of a licence.

You could also get a fine if you:

  • stop a zoo inspector doing their job properly
  • don’t display your zoo licence properly