Zoos in Scotland: guidance

Guidance on operating a zoo in Scotland.

Obtaining a licence for a new zoo

When setting up a new zoo, the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 and Zoo Licensing Act 1981 Amendment (Scotland) Regulations 2003 (ZLA) should be consulted during all stages of the licensing process. The Standards of Modern Zoo Practice and the Zoos Expert Committee Handbook provide detailed guidance and should also be consulted.

The key stages are summarised here:

Stage 1: initial consideration of proposal and potential for exemption from ZLA

1. At least two months before submitting an application for a zoo licence, an applicant must complete a notice of intention to apply for a zoo licence and submit a copy of the completed notice to their local authority. The applicant must also publish the notice in one local and one national newspaper and must display a copy of the notice at the site of the proposed zoo [see appendix below: section 2(1)]. They should inform their local authority of the facilities and species envisaged.

2. The local authority must keep a copy of the notice available at its offices for free public inspection during reasonable office hours [see appendix: section 2(3)] to allow the public to view the proposals for the proposed zoo and to lodge any objections they may have to these. The council should take such objections into account in deciding whether or not to grant a licence to the zoo [see step 10 for further details].

3. On receiving the notice of intention, the local authority must decide whether the proposed establishment meets the definition of a zoo as specified by the ZLA [see appendix: sections 1(2), 1(2A), 1(2B)]. If the proposed establishment does meet the definition of a zoo, the local authority should instruct the applicant to submit an application for a zoo licence.

Stage 2: initial consideration of application

4. The applicant completes and submits a licence application form to the local authority not less than two months after giving “notice of intention to apply for a zoo licence.

5. In considering the licence application, the local authority should take into account any representations made by, or on behalf of, any of persons listed below [section 3(2)]:

(a) the applicant;

(b) the chief constable for any area in which the whole or any part of the zoo is situated;

(c) any authority discharging, in any area in which the whole or any part of the zoo is situated, the functions of fire authority under the Fire Services Act 1947;

(d) the governing body of any national institution concerned with the operation of zoos;

(e) where part of the zoo is not situated in the area of the local authority with power to grant the licence, a planning authority for the area in which the part is situated (other than a county planning authority);

(f) any person alleging that the establishment or continuance of the zoo would injuriously affect the health or safety of persons living in the neighbourhood of the zoo;

(g) any other person whose representations might, in the opinion of the local authority, show grounds on which the authority has a power or duty to refuse to grant a licence.

Stage 3: consideration of potential for a dispensation under section (14)(1)(a) - exemption from ZLA

6. The local authority should also consider whether or not the establishment may qualify for a dispensation under section 14(1)(a) of the ZLA [see guidance on dispensations].

7. If a zoo is awarded a 14(1)(a) dispensation, it is exempt from the requirements of the ZLA and the Act will not apply to that zoo. Collections that are normally eligible for 14(1)(a) dispensations include:

(i) traditional deer parks

(ii) collections, excluding those of wild mammals, of small, non-hazardous and non-conservation sensitive wild species not normally exceeding 120 specimens.

8. If the local authority judges that a proposed zoo satisfies the requirements for a 14(1)(a) dispensation, the local authority should submit the following information to the APHA in support of an application for a 14(1)(a) dispensation:

  1. a letter from the local authority stating why it supports a dispensation;
  2. a letter from a vet (not used by the zoo) confirming that the zoo appears to be run properly and the animals properly cared for;
  3. an up-to-date stock list;
  4. any other relevant information in support of the application.

9. APHA will arrange for the information to be considered by a panel of Scottish Ministers' Zoo Inspectors and the recommendation of relevant information will be passed to the SG for consent. If the zoo is eligible, the SG will issue a dispensation direction stating that the ZLA does not apply to the zoo and will notify the applicant, the operator and the local authority.

10. Where the proposed establishment does not qualify for a 14(1)(a) dispensation and therefore requires a zoo licence  - follow the process from step 11 onwards.

Stage 4: zoo inspection where a zoo licence will be required

11. Before a decision can be made on whether to grant or refuse a licence, the local authority must arrange for an initial licence inspection to be carried out [appendix: section 4(1A)]. The inspection is required to establish whether the zoo will meet the requirements of the ZLA and the licence conditions stipulated by the local authority.

12. Timing - it is recommended that licence inspections before the grant or refusal of a new licence take place before animals are introduced into a new zoo. This allows zoo operators to determine in advance whether their animal housing facilities provide suitable and secure accommodation and to obtain advice on how to address any existing problems. Zoo operators should consult closely with the local authority during the planning stage of zoo construction and, if necessary, seek advice on animal accommodation from zoo inspectors and/or zoo consultants before the licence inspection takes place.

13. Attendees - these inspections are attended by either one or two Scottish Ministers’ Zoo Inspectors (depending on the size of the zoo) in addition to not more than three inspectors appointed by the local authority, one of whom must be a vet.

14. Costs - the current hourly rate for Scottish Ministers’ Zoo Inspectors is £72.53 which includes time spent carrying out the inspection in addition to travel time to and from the zoo undergoing the inspection. Local authorities may charge fees in relation to zoo inspections; zoo operators are advised to contact their local authority directly to obtain information on possible zoo inspection fees. Zoo inspections generally require a few hours or up to one full day depending on the size of the collection; inspections of particularly large collections may require more than one day.

15. The local authority must contact the APHA to request nomination of suitable Scottish Ministers Zoo Inspector(s). The APHA will provide the local authority with the names and contact details of the nominated zoo inspectors. The local authority should liaise with the inspectors and the applicant to arrange a mutually convenient date for the inspection and should notify the APHA of that date.

16. The local authority should notify the applicant of all persons who will be inspecting the zoo, giving the applicant at least 28 days’ notice of the date of the proposed inspection.

17. The local authority should request that the applicant completes and returns a pre-inspection audit form in advance of the inspection. This is not a legal requirement but it may save the applicant significant time during the inspection and reduce costs.

18. The local authority should send copies of the completed pre-inspection audit form to the nominated Scottish Ministers’ Zoo Inspector(s) as well as any other relevant information such as a copy of the licence application in advance of the inspection.

19. The inspection is carried out by the nominated Scottish Ministers’ Zoo Inspectors on the agreed date using an inspection report form).

Stage 5: zoo inspection report

20. Following the inspection, the Scottish Ministers’ Zoo Inspector sends the completed inspection report to the local authority as soon as is practical. If completion of the report will take more than 28 days, the zoo inspector should notify the local authority of this and the local authority should notify the applicant about any delays in receiving the report.

21. The local authority should send a copy of the inspection report, within one month of receiving it, to the applicant for comment. Following receipt of any comments, the local authority should send a signed off copy of the final report (including the applicant’s comments, if any) to the relevant Scottish Ministers’ Zoo Inspector(s) and inform APHA that the inspection has been completed.

Stage 6: consideration of licence application

22. The local authority must then decide whether or not to grant the licence, based on the inspection report and other relevant considerations including, for example, whether the establishment of a zoo would adversely affect the health or safety of persons living in the neighbourhood and the maintenance of law and order, the value of the conservation measures to be implemented by the zoo, the standards of staffing, management and accommodation, matters relating to planning permission and whether the applicant, any director or person employed at the zoo has a relevant conviction [appendix: section 4]. In considering the application, the local authority must also take into account representations made by certain parties [appendix: section 3(2), step 10 above]

Stage 7: potential for 'Reduced Inspections' or 'Reduced Inspection Team' dispensation from ZLA

23. The local authority must also decide whether the zoo is suitable for a ‘reduced inspections' dispensation [under section 14(1(b)] or, alternatively, the applicant may request a ‘reduced inspection team' dispensation [under section 14(2)] if the zoo’s size and nature suggest that it may be eligible [see guidance on dispensations].

Stage 8: setting of licence conditions

24. If the licence is to be granted, the local authority attaches a list of conditions to the licence including mandatory conditions that implement the conservation requirements of section 1A of the ZLA as well as any other conditions that the local authority considers necessary to ensure the proper conduct of the zoo. For example, licence conditions may relate to insurance, hazardous animals, temporary removal of animals from a zoo or escapes. Before attaching the conditions, the local authority should consult the applicant and give him/her the opportunity to make representations.

Stage 9: notification of decision

25. Once the licence conditions are finalised, the local authority informs the applicant that the licence application has been successful and sends the new licence with the conditions attached to the applicant by post. The zoo operator must publically display the licence (or a copy) at each public entrance to the zoo. The local authority should also send an electronic copy of the licence and conditions to the APHA.

26. If the local authority or zoo operator considers that the zoo should be eligible for a 14(1)(b) or 14(2) dispensation respectively, the relevant party should inform the APHA [see guidance on dispensations].

27. If the licence will not be granted, the local authority must send a written statement explaining the grounds for refusal [appendix: section 4(7)]. The applicant has the right to appeal to the local sheriff [see section 18(1)(a) of the ZLA.

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