image - corner image

Dangerous wild animals licence

Animal Licensing Toolkit

Do I need to apply for a licence with North Devon Council?

The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 aims to ensure that where private individuals keep dangerous wild animals, they do so in circumstances which create no risk to the public and which safeguard the welfare of the animals.

Any person that wishes to keep any animal listed in the Schedule (pdf 66kB) PDF logo of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 in North Devon must obtain a Dangerous Wild Animals Licence (DWA Licence) from North Devon Council.

The Act does not apply to any dangerous wild animal kept in:

  • a zoo;
  • a circus;
  • premises licensed as a pet shop;
  • a place (which is a designated establishment within the meaning of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

A person is held to be the keeper of the animal if they have it in their possession. They remain the 'keeper' and therefore are responsible for the animal, even if it escapes or it is being transported etc.

The applicant

Any applicant for a DWA licence must:

  • be at least 18 years old;
  • own and process, or propose to own and possess, all of the animals that are to be included on the licence, unless there are circumstances which North Devon Council consider exceptional;
  • not have been disqualified under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 from keeping any dangerous wild animal.

Considerations for applicants

Before you apply for a Dangerous Wild Animals Licence we advise you to consider the following:

  • keeping any animal of the type listed in Schedule will require a great deal of commitment in order to ensure its well being. You should be certain that you are prepared to take on this commitment and have carried out the necessary research to ensure you are fully aware of the care and facilities which the type of animal you are going to keep requires;
  • some animals of the types listed in Schedule can grow quite large and need adequate space for exercise. You should consider whether you have the space and adequate facilities to house the animal correctly. If you do not currently have adequate space or facilities, it may be that a substantial investment is needed to provide them and it may require planning permission;
  • a condition of a Dangerous Wild Animal licence is that adequate insurance cover is provided. Please take this into account in determining whether or not you can afford to keep an animal listed;
  • consider whether you are able to afford to pay for vets bills; the animal you may be proposing to keep might require treatment from a specialist veterinary practitioner. You could find this will cost more than simply going to your local veterinary practitioner;
  • consider if you should discuss the issue of having an animal which requires a Dangerous Wild Animals Licence at your premises with your immediate neighbours (where applicable). Some applications may involve also making an application for planning permission, the processing of which could involve taking into account their comments and concerns;
  • you may need to source a supplier for the type of food required to satisfy the dietary requirements for the animal you intend to keep;
  • some animals will produce waste products which are difficult to dispose of e.g. big cat excreta. You will need to make arrangements for this. We suggest that you contact the Environment Agency to discuss (telephone 08708 506 506);
  • you will need to make adequate arrangements to ensure that all feed kept on site is stored in suitable vermin proof containers and that all waste food is removed regularly so as not to attract vermin. You may wish to seek advice from an appropriate pest control contractor in relation to adequate means of vermin control/proofing.

The application process

To apply for a Dangerous Wild Animals licence, applicants must complete and submit an application form with the relevant fee.

North Devon Council will arrange for an authorised veterinary surgeon/practitioner to undertake an inspection of the premises and produce a report, which the Council is legally obliged to consider when determining the the application.

The fee for this service is additional to the standard licence fee. You are welcome to request that the premises are inspected by the vet you normally use for the treatment of your animals. If you do not wish to do this, the Council will appoint an appropriate Veterinary Surgeon or Practitioner as it sees fit.

North Devon Council will not grant a licence unless satisfied that:

  • it would not be contrary to the public interest on the grounds of safety, nuisance or otherwise;
  • the applicant is a suitable person to hold a licence and is adequately insured;
  • animals will be held in secure accommodation to prevent them from escaping;
  • accommodation for animals is suitable with regards to the construction, size, temperature lighting, ventilation, drainage and cleanliness,  and which is suitable for the number of animals proposed to be held in the accommodation;
  • animals are provided with adequate food, drink and bedding materials and will be visited at suitable intervals;
  • appropriate steps will be taken for the protection of any animal concerned in case of fire or other emergency;
  • appropriate steps will be taken to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases;
  • while any animal cornered is at the premises where it will normally be held, its accommodation is such that it can take adequate exercise.

How long does a licence last?

1) Licences are valid for a period of 2 years and shall then expire.
2) Licences will come into force immediately upon their being granted, except for renewals of a licence applied for before the expiry of the licence they are to replace, in which case the subsequent licence will come into force from the date of expiry of the licence it replaces.
2a) If the grant or refusal of a renewal application occurs after the date of expiry of the existing licence, the existing licence shall be deemed to be still in force until the grant or refusal.

3) Licence holders will receive a written reminder from North Devon Council approximately four months prior to the expiry of their licence. Applicants should apply prior to their licence expiry and in good time.

4) In the event of death of anyone to whom a licence has been granted , the licence shall continue in force for a period of 28 days as if it had been granted to the personal representatives of the deceased. After a period of 28 days the licence expires, unless application is made for a new licence within that time, in which case it continues, until the new application is determined.

What conditions will be attached to a licence?

The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 provides standard conditions that must be specified on a licence - WORD (Word 21kB) logo - Word Document Logo PDF (pdf 21kB) PDF logo. In addition to these conditions North Devon Council may impose others as they think fit.

If North Devon Council proposes to insert in a licence a provision permitting any animal to be for any continuous period exceeding 72 hours at premises outside of North Devon it shall consult the authority in  whose area those premises are situated.

As part of the licence conditions, you are required to ensure that you have adequate Public Liability Insurance which provides cover for the animal(s) which you have on site.

You must ensure that any policy you take out provides sufficient cover against any damage which may be caused by the animal should it escape. The level of insurance will depend on many factors which may include the species and number of animals you wish to keep.

North Devon Council may at any time vary the licence by specifying any new conditions of the licence or varying or revoking any condition of it (exceptions apply to those conditions specified by section 1(6) of the DWA Act 1976).

Rights of entry

Local Authorities may authorise competent persons to enter premises either licensed under the Act or specified in an application for a licence, at all reasonable times, producing if required their authority, and the authorised officers may inspect these premises and any animal in them.

Powers of seizure

In addition to powers of inspection, the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 also gives the Council powers to seize any animal being kept on premises which are unlicensed or failing to comply with a condition of their licence.

Animals may then be either retained in the councils possession or be destroyed or otherwise disposed of and the authority shall not be liable to pay compensation to any person in respect of these powers.

Where we incur any expense in seizing, retaining or disposing of an animal then the person who was the keeper of the animal shall be liable for those costs.

Offences and penalties

The following offences and penalties apply:

  • any person found guilty of keeping an animal covered by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 without a licence shall be subject to a fine not exceeding level 5 (currently £5,000);
  • any person found guilty of failing to comply with any licence condition shall be subject to a fine not exceeding level 5 (currently £5000);
  • 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 level 5 (currently £5000).

Where a person is convicted of any offence under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, or of any offence under:

  • The Protection of Animals Acts 1911;
  • The Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925;
  • The Pet Animals Act 1951;
  • The Animals (Cruel Poisons) Act 1962;
  • The Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963;
  • The Riding Establishments Acts 1964 and 1970;
  • Breeding of Dogs Act 1973;
  • Animal Welfare Act 2006, Sections 4,5,6(1)(2), 7 to 9 and 11;

the court by which he is convicted may cancel any licence held by him under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, and may, whether or not he is the holder of such a licence, disqualify him from keeping any dangerous wild animal for such period as the court thinks fit. The cancellation or disqualification may be suspended by the Court in the event of an appeal.

How long will it take to process my application?

If we have not contacted you to make arrangements to authorise a veterinary surgeon to inspect your premises within 14 days of your application, please contact us to check that your application was correctly made and received.

Applicants are advised the application process can be fairly lengthy due to the necessity for a veterinary inspection, and in addition some applications may need to be determined by the Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee. The Council will endeavour to issue a Licence within a period of 10 weeks from receipt of application, however if we have been unable to determine your application within this time a licence will not be automatically granted due to animal welfare implications.

For renewals, please be reassured that if we have received your application form and fee before the expiry date of your existing licence, we will treat your premises as if they are in possession of a valid licence whilst the application is being processed. Applicants who are late requesting renewal, thereby allowing their licence to lapse, are advised to contact us immediately.

How to apply

Please complete and submit a Dangerous Wild Animals Licence application form:


A completed application must be submitted with the correct fee. Additionally, the cost of the veterinary inspection must be borne by the applicant.


The dangerous wild animals register contains details of those premises licensed with North Devon Council.

Contact details

Application  forms should be sent to The Licensing Team, Environmental Health and Housing , North Devon Council, Civic Centre, North Walk, Barnstaple, Devon, EX31 1EA or can be handed in at the Civic Centre Customer Service Centre or one of our area offices in Ilfracombe and South Molton.

In case of query, please telephone the Customer Service Centre on 01271 388870 and ask for the Licensing Team.


Please also see contact details towards the bottom of this page.

Right of appeal

Any person aggrieved by a refusal to be granted a licence or by any conditions to which a licence is subject or by the variation or revocation of any condition of the licence, may appeal to the Magistrates Courts who may give such directions regarding the licence or its conditions as it thinks proper.

A court which has ordered the cancellation of a person’s licence, or his disqualification, in pursuance of the last foregoing subsection may, if it thinks fit, suspend the operation of the order pending an appeal.


If you want to make a complaint about any dangerous wild animals establishment, please contact us.

If you feel we have failed to provide you with good service or are concerned about the progress of your application, please telephone the Customer Service Centre. The Licensing Team will endeavour to resolve any concerns you may have.

The Council also has a formal complaints procedure.

Further information

Copies of the Dangerous Wild Animals 1976 can be purchased from Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006, places responsibilities for care and welfare of an animal, on persons who are in charge of an animal, whether on a permanent or temporary basis. More information can be found on the DEFRA website.

Trade associations

WAZA - World Association of Zoos and Aquariums

BIAZA - British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums

RCVS - Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

Contact information

To contact the Customer Service Centre:

Telephone: 01271 388870
For Typetalk: precede with 18001
Text: 07624 804042
Fax: 01271 388451
Web form: send us a web enquiry
Join the conversation on Twitterexternal website
Compliment, complaint or suggestion? Your feedback

Our office hours are Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.

Licence applications, notices etc should be sent to:

The Licensing Team
Environmental Health and Housing
North Devon Council
Civic Centre
North Walk
EX31 1EA

GOV.UK - replacing DirectGov and Business Link
GOV.UKexternal site the best place to find government services and information.
Quick links
Cookie compliance
alert to users
How we use cookies. How to change your settings.
Fix this page
Service not Working? See our Translation page.