In accordance with Section 8 of the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (as amended), AHVLA manage a list of Secretary of State Zoo Inspectors who are qualified to inspect zoos in England.

How do they work?

The zoo inspector list is made up of two parts:

  • The first part contains the names of veterinary surgeons and practitioners who have experience of the kinds of animals which are kept in zoos and are competent to advise on the implementation in zoos of the conservation measures referred to in section 1A of the Act.
  • The second part contains names of persons competent to inspect animals in zoos, to advise on their welfare and on keeping them, to advise on the implementation in zoos of the conservation measures referred to in section 1A of the Act and to advise on the management of zoos generally.

AHVLA nominates suitable inspectors on behalf of local authorities to carry out zoo inspections required under the Act. The zoo inspectors are not employed by AHVLA, they are contracted by individual local authorities to carry out zoo inspections and as such, inspectors’ expenses are paid by the licensing authority and recharged to the owner of the zoo. AHVLA is responsible for setting the fees.

What do inspections cover?

Zoo inspections are required to extend to all features of the zoo directly or indirectly relevant to the health, welfare and safety of the public and the animals, including measures for the prevention of the escape of animals. They will also extend to the zoo’s compliance with requirements on conservation and education. Inspectors are expected to refer to the Secretary of State’s Standards of Modern Zoo Practice when carrying out inspections. Forms for inspections are provided below:

The Zoos Expert Committee has also provided guidance in its Zoos Expert Committee Handbook on zoo issues, such as how conservation and education requirements are assessed.

Exemptions and dispensations

The Zoo Licensing Act takes into account zoos will vary greatly in size, from a farm park exhibiting a handful of exotic species to major zoological collections with many species exhibited, high visitor numbers and so on. The full requirements of the Act, in terms of inspection frequency and size and make-up of inspection teams, will not necessarily be appropriate for small collections.

Exemptions and dispensations are therefore a valuable tool in the Act to make sure it can be applied proportionately and avoid putting unnecessary burdens on very small establishments. The purpose of dispensations and exemptions is to relax the requirements of the Act on collections that the Secretary of State, after appropriate consultation, considers suitable.

AHVLA is responsible for considering exemptions and dispensations from the Act:

  • Dispensations from the Act may be granted for smaller collections.
  • They are in place for a large proportion, over half, of licensed zoo collections.
  • Local authorities, zoo inspectors and zoos themselves all have a role in this, in addition to AHVLA.

Zoos operating in England

AHVLA maintains a list of zoos currently operating inEngland. The information held is obtained from the local authority which has responsibility for administering the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (as amended). This list will be updated annually.

Zoo licensing policy

Responsibility for the policy side of the zoo licensing legislation lies with core Defra.

Page last modified: 5 November 2013