Dangerous wild animals

The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 and a schedule included with the Act contains a list of the various animals classed as "dangerous wild animals".  In addition to powers of inspection, the Act also gives the council powers to seize any animal being kept on premises which are unlicensed.  Zoos, pet shops and circuses are exempt from the provisions of the Act as these premises are subject to separate licensing requirements.

The keeping of certain species of wild animals is controlled by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976. This specifies that:

  • No person may keep a dangerous wild animal without having first obtained a licence from their local authority (council).
  • Animals requiring a licence are listed in the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (Modification) Order 1984.

Applications for a licence must be made to the council, and a licence may be issued providing the applicant is not disqualified or has been convicted under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.

An application fee (currently £587) is payable at the time of application.

The applicant will also be required to pay the cost of inspections carried out by the council's authorised veterinary surgeon or veterinary practitioner.

Where a licence is granted, that licence and any subsequent licence will expire on the 31 December of the year to which the licence relates and must be renewed before that date if the licence holder is to continue to keep the animal(s) named on the licence.

Council's duties

Before granting a licence the environmental health officer must be satisfied that:

  1. It is not contrary to the public interest to do so on the grounds of safety, nuisance or other grounds
  2. The applicant is a suitable person to hold a licence to keep the animals listed on the application
  3. The animal(s) will be kept in accommodation that prevents its escape and is suitable in respect of construction, size, temperature, drainage and cleanliness
  4. The animal(s) will be supplied with adequate and suitable food drink and bedding material and be visited at suitable intervals
  5. Appropriate steps will be taken to ensure the protection of the animal(s) in case of fire or other emergency
  6. All reasonable precautions are taken to prevent the spread of infectious diseases
  7. The animal(s) accommodation is such that it can take adequate exercise
  8. The council may at any time revoke or amend any licence condition apart from those covered by 9 a) to 9 f) below
  9. Where the council issues a licence, that licence will be subject to such conditions as the council sees fit and in each case these conditions will specify that:
  • Only the person named on the licence shall be entitled to keep the animal
  • The animal shall only be kept on the premises named on the licence
  • The animal shall not be moved or may only be moved in accordance with conditions specified in the licence
  • The licensee must hold a current insurance policy, approved by the council, which insures against liability for damage caused by the animal
  • Only the species and number of animals listed on the licence may be kept
  • The licensee shall make a copy of the licence and its contents available to any other person listed on the licence as being able to look after the animal.

Your rights of appeal

Any person aggrieved by a refusal to be granted a licence or by any conditions to which the licence is subject, may appeal to the magistrate’s court and the courts may give such direction regarding the licence and its conditions as it thinks proper.

Offences and penalties

Anybody found guilty of keeping an animal covered by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 without a licence, or anybody found guilty of failing to comply with any licence condition shall be subject to a fine not exceeding £2,000.

Any person found guilty of obstructing or delaying an inspector or authorised veterinary practitioner or veterinary surgeon shall be subject to a fine not exceeding £2,000.

Where a person keeps an animal without a licence or where a person fails to comply with a licence condition, inspectors from the council may seize the animal and may either retain it, or have it destroyed or disposed of (to a zoo or elsewhere) without compensation to the owner.

If the council incurs any expense in seizing, retaining or disposing of an animal then the keeper of the animal shall be liable for these costs.

Further information

A copy of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 can be obtained from Office of Public Sector Information, or a copy can be inspected at the council offices where you may also obtain an application form and further help or advice.

Download a copy of the application form.

You will be contacted in writing on receipt of the application form and a site visit arranged.


Licensing and Safety Team
Environmental Health and Trading Standards
Tower Hamlets Town Hall
160 Whitechapel Road
E1 1BJ

Opening hours are 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday

Tel: 020 7364 5000
Fax: 020 7364 6901

Email: healthandsafety@towerhamlets.gov.uk