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Animals for exhibition

Businesses operating on a commercial basis will need a licence if they keep or train animals for exhibition for education or entertainment.

This can be:

  • to any audience in person
  • by recording visual images of the animals to play it to people using any technology

Examples of businesses include:

  • mobile animal exhibits that visit schools
  • weddings
  • private parties
  • fairs
  • any other events that have an audience

It also includes:

  • pony parties where the ponies are not ridden
  • businesses which keep animals for exhibition through electronic media, for example, animals used in films or TV
  • businesses which train animals for exhibition, either to an audience or through electronic media

There are specific conditions which need to be followed. This also includes details of what records you need to keep.


If your business will cover more than one of the activities above, you must complete a separate application form for each of the activities.

All applications must be completed in full and be accompanied by the following:

  • Written procedures for the following areas:
    • feeding regimes
    • cleaning regimes
    • transportation
    • the prevention of, and control of the spread of, disease (including a full isolation protocol, if the isolation facility is at another location, such as a local veterinary practice, the licence holder must be able to show evidence that this is ready to use (for example a letter/email from the practice)
    • monitoring and ensuring the health and welfare of all the animals
    • the death or escape of an animal (including the storage of carcasses)
    • a procedure to be in place covering the care of the animals following the suspension or revocation of the licence or during and following an emergency. This should include emergency accommodation if the original accommodation becomes uninhabitable.
    • staff training policy, where no staff are employed, the operator must set out a training policy for themselves to keep their knowledge base up to date. The training policy must be reviewed and updated annually, and must include an annual appraisal, planned continued professional development, and recognition of any knowledge gaps.
  • public liability insurance certificate for the business with a minimum of £5 million cover
  • any other record forms and procedures as required by the relevant DEFRA guidance for the activity you will be conducting. Details of these are outlined in the specific licence sections above.

Considerations before you apply

  • running a business from a premises may require planning permission. We highly recommend checking with the planning department before starting up a business
  • if you live in rented accommodation, check the terms of your tenancy agreement and obtain consent from the landlord before you apply. Most domestic rental properties do not allow businesses to be operated from the premises
  • check the animal accommodation will be compliant with the size and materials in the DEFRA guidance


What happens next

Applications are checked within three working days and you will be advised if your application can be progressed or whether we require further information.

Licences are decided within 10 weeks of a valid application being received.

Once the inspector has the necessary documentation, you will be contacted to arrange an inspection.

After the inspection has been conducted, the inspector will grant or refuse the licence. Where a licence has been granted, you should expect to receive the hard copy of the licence in the post within two weeks.

Where a licence has been refused, the inspector will provide the decision in writing, stating the grounds for refusal and your rights of appeal.

Making changes and renewals

If you need to change your licence you can find out more on our variations to animal licences webpage.


You need to renew a minimum of 10 weeks before the expiry date. A copy of the current public liability insurance certificate and any procedures which have been updated should be attached to the renewal application. If you have missed the renewal date and your licence has expired, you will be required to pay the new application fee instead of the renewal fee.


Licence fees

Number of animalsApplicationRenewal
1 - 5 species £655 £595
Each additional group of animals £50 £40

Procedures and records

DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) outline the specific conditions in regard to keeping or training animals on GOV.UK which need to be followed. This also includes details of what records you need to keep.

Keeping or training animals



  • 4.1 - Written instructions must be provided for staff on the provision of health care and the procedures to be followed in the event of an incident involving any venomous animal and a member of the public or staff member.
  • 7.5 - All immature animals must be given suitable and adequate opportunities to:
    • learn how to interact with people, their own species and other animals where such interaction benefits their welfare
    • become habituated to noises, objects and activities in their environment. There must be a plan in place for any animals to be familiarised early on with any stimulus or combination of stimuli they are likely to experience such as individual handling, audiences and crowds, loud noises and activities going on around them.
  • 8.2 - The animals must be kept separately or in suitable compatible social groups appropriate to the species and individual animals. No animals from a social species may be isolated or separated from others of their species for any longer than is necessary. A policy must be in place for monitoring the introduction of new animals to existing groups to avoid stress to either new or resident animals and outlining steps that must be taken should a problem arise.
  • 10.1 - A written emergency plan (to ensure appropriate steps are taken to protect all the people and animals on the premises in case of fire or in case of breakdowns for essential heating, ventilation and aeration or filtration systems or other emergencies).

    Before any of the animals arrive on-site of an exhibit location, an emergency plan must be in place. This should include the recovery and treatment of any escaped animals and evacuation procedures in the event of a fire, flood, etc.
    An emergency plan must include a list of any listed species on the current Schedule of the Dangerous Wild Animal Act held, where applicable, and the specific action plan for their safe removal and immediate appropriate rehoming in the case of emergency. Your emergency plan should cover all the requirements stated above
  • 1.1 - The licence holder must hold valid public liability insurance in respect of the licensable activity of keeping or training animals for exhibition. A copy of the insurance policy document must be taken to all exhibits. It must be ready for inspection, if needed.
  • 2.1 - A written policy detailing contingency measures in the event of the breakdown of a vehicle used to transport the animals or any other emergency must be available to all staff
  • 7.7 - The licence holder or the licence holder’s staff must undertake a risk assessment before each exhibition event. The welfare risk assessment must assess against each of the five welfare needs of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It must state the:
    • mitigating measures taken to reduce risks
    • people responsible for this



Details of what to record


Staff training records (records of courses, written or online learning, keeping up to date with any research or developments and annual appraisals)


The animals must not be left unattended in any situation or for any period likely to cause them distress. A documented system of recording observation for illness, injury or behavioural problems must be maintained.


Feed and (where appropriate water intake) must be monitored, any problems to be recorded and addressed. Abnormalities in eating and/or drinking habits must be recorded, reported to the appropriate member of staff and acted upon. Appropriate veterinary advice must be sought if necessary.


The animals’ behaviour and any changes of behaviour must be monitored. The behaviour of individual animals must be monitored daily and changes in behaviour and/or behaviours indicative of stress, fear, pain and anxiety must be recorded and acted upon.


No person may euthanise an animal except a vet or a person who has been authorised by a vet as competent for such purpose or: (a) in the case of fish, a person who is competent for such purpose (b) in the case of horses, a person who is competent, and who holds a licence or certificate, for such purpose If euthanasia is not carried out by, or under the direct supervision of, a vet this must be recorded. The records must be available for inspection and detail:

  • why the animal was euthanised
  • the method used
  • the member of staff who euthanised the animal


Any signs of pain, suffering, injury, disease or abnormal behaviour must be recorded and the advice and further advice (if necessary) of a veterinarian (or in the case of fish, of an appropriately competent person) must be sought and followed. Checks must not cause unnecessary stress or disturbance. Visual checks are acceptable.

A system of recording abnormalities must be maintained.


The licence holder must keep a list of each animal kept, or trained, for exhibition with all the information necessary to identify that animal individually (including its common and scientific names) and must provide the local authority with a copy of the list and any change to it as soon as practicable after the change.


A register must be kept of each animal exhibited or to be exhibited which must include:

  • the full name of the supplier of the animal
  • its date of birth
  • the date of its arrival
  • its name (if any), age, sex, neuter status, description and microchip or ring number (if applicable)
  • the name and contact details of the animal’s normal veterinarian and details of any insurance relating to it
  • details of the animal’s relevant medical and behavioural history including details of any treatment administered against parasites and any restrictions on exercise or diet
  • a record of the date or dates of the animal’s most recent vaccination, worming and flea treatments, and(h) the distance to and times taken for it to travel to and from each exhibition event.


A record of when the animals are exhibited must be kept and an animal rotation policy must be put in place to ensure that the animals have enough rest between and during exhibition events. The log must include:

  • date of exhibit
  • time of exhibit
  • duration of exhibit (arrival to departure time)
  • type of exhibit
  • animals used in exhibit
  • location of exhibit
  • distance/travel time to exhibit from licensed premises

A record must be kept for each individual animal setting out:

  • how often they are used in an exhibit
  • how long they are used in an exhibit
  • what rest periods they have in the home environment


The licence holder must register with a veterinarian with an appropriate level of experience in the health and welfare requirements of any animals specified in the licence and the contact details of that veterinarian must be readily available to all staff on the premises used for the licensable activity.