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Wild Animals And Zoos

The Dangerous Wild Animals (DWA) Act 1976 safeguards the welfare of animals and the general public.

The policy was introduced in response to public concern about dangerous animals – namely big cats – being kept as pets. The act stops individuals who own these animals from creating a risk to the public. It also helps to keep the animals safe.

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

Licences are issued when:

  • There will be no public interest on the grounds of safety or nuisance;
  • 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. These all have their own specific legislation.


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

The act describes a zoo as 'an establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition to the public otherwise than for the purpose of a circus and otherwise than as a pet shop'.

The act applies to any zoo which can be accessed by members of the public for more than seven days over a 12-month period. This is regardless of whether or not they need to pay.

Contact us

To discuss making an application please email licensing@ashford.gov.uk.

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