Dangerous wild animals: licensing guidance for local authorities

Advice on the licensing of dangerous wild animals for local authorities.


The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (“the Act”), as amended, regulates the keeping of dangerous wild animals.

The Act aims to protect the public and to ensure that the animals are properly cared for.

The Act defines a dangerous wild animal as any animal listed in the Schedule and includes animals such as lions, chimpanzees, crocodiles, and certain venomous snakes and spiders. 

The Act applies in England, Wales and Scotland, but responsibility for dangerous wild animals has been devolved to Scotland. 

The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (Modification) (Scotland) Order 2008 amends the Schedule which states what animals are covered by the Act

Local authorities are responsible for administering and enforcing the Act, and anyone wishing to keep such animals must obtain a licence from their local authority prior to taking ownership of their animal. 

The Act does not apply to those animals kept in zoos, circuses, pet shops or designated establishments within the meaning of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, as these are covered by separate legislation.

Nothing in this guidance should be taken as legal advice or as a substitute for the legislation itself. Legal advice should be sought where provisions of the Act are unclear.


Scottish Government
Rural and Environment Directorate
Animal Health and Welfare Division
P Spur
Saughton House
Broomhouse Drive
EH11 3XD

Email: animal.health@gov.scot

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