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Legislation

In 2002 the European Zoos Directive (pdf) (EC Directive 199/22/EC) on the Keeping of Wild Animals in Zoos came into force, see the EU Zoos Directive Good Practices Document. This sets conservation, education and animal welfare standards for all zoos and aquariums in EU countries. Separate legislation has been enacted in each EU member state e.g. Zoo Licensing Act [(Amendment England and Wales) Regulations 2002] in England Scotland and Wales; Zoo Licensing Regulations (NI) 2003 in Northern Ireland; and S.I. No. 440/2003 - European Communities (Licensing and Inspection of Zoos) Regulations 2003 in the Irish Republic.

In England the Act is regulated by Defra; in Wales by the Welsh Government; in Scotland by the Scottish Executive; in Northern Ireland by the Department of the Environment and in the Irish Republic by the Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government. To operate zoos and aquariums have to have a licence, this means that they have to undergo regular inspection by Inspectors from the Secretary of States List. Inspectors follow the Secretary of States Standards of Modern Zoo Practice, (SSSMZP) and similar standards operate in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Full details of this legislation is given in The Guide to the Zoo Licensing Act's provisions (pdf) to the Zoo Licensing Act. The Defra website also has very useful information in the zoos section.  This includes a link to the 2012 version of the document Managing Health and Safety in Zoos.

The Zoos Forum was formed in 1988 as an independent advisory body to government on zoo matters. The Forum was established as part of the Government’s proposals to modernise British zoos and ensure that captive wild animals are properly cared for into the next century. In 2010 the Forum became the Zoos Expert Committee (ZEC) and in 2012 produced the  Zoos Expert Committe handbook. The ZEC is composed of people with a broad range of expertise and experience in the world of animal welfare and conservation, from scientists and veterinary surgeons to educators and members of animal conservation institutions. In 2012 the Zoos Expert Committee  produced a Handbook which supplements the SSSMZP with information to help zoos and aquariums achieve the highest standards. This has replaced the Zoos Forum Handbook and is available here.

BIAZA also works with CITES to protect certain plants and animals by regulating and monitoring their international trade and to prevent it reaching unsustainable levels.  CITES regulates international trade of around 5,000 species of animals and 29,000 species of plant. BIAZA staff represent members in regular stakeholder group meetings, contributing to discussions on changes in legislation, particularly with reference to the illegal wildlife trade.


The Association has consistently supported a strong legislative control of zoos and aquariums. BIAZA believes that only through effective legislation can high standards of husbandry and welfare be consistently achieved in collections across the European Union.

The Association will continue to offer its expertise, advice and experience to the on-going debate and formulation of zoo and aquarium policies. Along with the vast majority of the British public the Association shares a vision of zoos and aquariums being centres of excellence, thus making a valuable contribution to the conservation of the natural world. 

For more information on zoo legisation in other parts of the world visit the Zoo Outreach website

Click here to view legislative guidance documents.




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