Dangerous wild animals: species guidance

Individual species guidance on the keeping of dangerous wild animals.


Species name

Canis lupus (grey wolf)

Additional information

All members of canidae need a licence except the domestic dog, foxes, culpeo, grey zorro, and raccoon dogs.

Conservation status

Some species of the grey wolf are classified as Annex A species under EC Regulation 338/97 (relating to the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)).  

Special permits must be obtained to buy, sell, breed or use Annex A species for any commercial purpose.

Housing overview

Wolves are usually housed in fenced outdoor enclosures. 

Keeping experience

In order to protect the welfare of these animals, keepers must be able to demonstrate a good knowledge of husbandry and handling of wolves.

There should be a second named person on the licence who is competent to care for the animals should the owner be absent or incapacitated.

Housing recommendations


Wolves are accomplished climbers, jumpers and diggers. Outdoor enclosures must be strong enough to resist animals jumping or running against the fence. 


For outdoor enclosures, a heavy gauge chain-link fence at least 2.5m high is recommended. If the enclosure does not have a roof, then there should be an inward sloping overhang at a 45° angle of at least 0.7m. There should also be skirting of at least 1m buried inside the enclosure at right angles to the fencing to prevent tunnelling if the enclosure does not have a concrete floor.  

Fence posts should be set into concrete, and any wooden posts should be protected with wire or chain to prevent chewing.


The minimum recommended floor space per animal in an outdoor enclosure is 18.5m². Floor space should be increased by a further 9.5m² for each additional animal.


Normal outdoor temperatures should be tolerable for wolves, however some form of shelter should be provided in outdoor enclosures to protect against wind, rain and heat.


Wolves require natural daytime lighting. If animals are to be kept indoors, suitable lighting must be provided during the day, and it must be adequate for the keeper to clean and work in the accommodation.


If the wolves are kept indoors, a suitable method of ventilation may be required.


The drainage of the enclosure must be capable of removing all excess water. Any open drains, other than those carrying surface water, should be outside the enclosure. Any faecal material must be disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.


Outdoor enclosures should be maintained in a clean state, with faeces, food debris and litter being removed on a daily basis. Indoor enclosures should ideally be built and furnished with materials that can be easily cleaned and disinfected.

Social dynamics and behavioural considerations

Wolves are pack animals and do best when housed in groups. A good understanding of pack hierarchy is desirable from keepers proposing to keep a group of wolves together. Adequate space and refuge must be provided if animals are to be kept in groups, ideally with a means for separation if necessary.

Wolves will dig to build dens. Sheltered den space should be provided in the enclosure as shelter from extreme weather and as a refuge. A den must be built from a solid material, and located far enough away from the fence to prevent the animals climbing on to it as a means of escape.

Keepers should be aware of the digging behaviour and check enclosures and repair holes promptly.

Prevention of escape

In addition to the fencing requirements, enclosures should be securely locked at all times. A double door with a space of approximately 2m² separating the two gates should be erected allowing the keeper to enter without a risk of the animals escaping. Both gates should be padlocked.

Barbed wire should not be used on wolf enclosures. Electric wires have been used, but this must be in addition to the minimum recommended fencing requirements.

If the enclosure is accessible by the public, for example, adjoining a public highway, steps should be taken to prevent the possibility of the public gaining access to, or being injured by, the animals. This may require the erection of a secondary fence (a stand-off barrier), or a solid wall on the accessible sides of the enclosure. Warning signs may also be required.

Food, drink and bedding

Wolves should be fed a meat diet, including bones, skin and/or fur, or a good quality high protein complete dog food. The feeding of live vertebrate prey is prohibited.

Fresh drinking water must be provided at all times.

Although wild wolves do not use bedding in underground dens, some suitable insulating bedding material such as straw or cardboard should be provided in dens above ground.

Visiting interval

The animals must be monitored at appropriate intervals, normally at least once every 24 hours.

Exercise and enrichment

The enclosure should be big enough for the animals to exercise. The use of enrichment is desirable, for example novel feeding methods, toys, and planting of the enclosure to provide interest. 

Provision for moving the animal(s)

Some contingency for safely moving animals should be in place in case veterinary attention is required, or in the event of an emergency. A crate suitable for transporting a large dog may be used, and should be lockable to prevent escape. If possible, the animals should be trained to enter the crate.

A licence, issued by the local authority, for the keeping of wolves may specify restrictions on the movement of these animals and procedures to be followed.

Emergency planning

There should be a written contingency plan in place to be used in the event of an emergency, for example fire, flood, animal escape or injury to the keeper.

Notification requirements

The licence may also specify procedures to be followed in the event of an escape and on the provision of information to the emergency services.

You are required to notify the local authority of any intentions to breed the animals.

Prevention and control of spread of infectious disease

The keeper should provide details of their veterinary arrangements with a practice prepared to treat wolves. A schedule of veterinary care, including routine parasite and vaccination control, is necessary and the keeping of records of veterinary attention is essential.  

Animals acquired from outside the UK may be subject to rabies quarantine regulations. Anyone requiring further information should contact APHA.

There are no transmissible diseases carried by these animals that pose a risk to the general public as long as there is no direct contact, and visitors are not allowed to handle the animals or their by-products.





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