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Dangerous Wild Animals and Zoos

The Dangerous Wild Animals (DWA) Act 1976 was introduced in response to public concern about the keeping of dangerous pets, especially big cats. The act aims to ensure that where individuals keep these pets, they do so in circumstances which create no risk to the public and safeguard the welfare of the animal.

Licences are required for any animal listed on the legislation.gov.uk website.

Licences are issued when we are satisfied that it would not be contrary to public interest on the grounds of safety or nuisance; that the applicant is a suitable person and the animal’s accommodation is adequate and secure.

The act does not apply to any animal kept in a zoo, circus, pet shop, or registered scientific establishment, which have their own specific legislation.


Zoos are regulated by local authorities under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981. 

The Act defines a zoo as an establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition to the public otherwise than for the purposes of a circus and otherwise than as a pet shop; and this Act applies to any zoo to which members of the public have access, with or without charge for admission, on more than seven days in any period of 12 consecutive months.

Contact us

To discuss making an application please email the Environmental Health team.

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