Owning a Zoo

If you want to know how to start a zoo, there are several factors to consider.

In the United Kingdom, there are close to 400 zoos, and nearly half of them are privately owned. Because only 15 percent of the zoos in the country are run by local authorities, there are enticing opportunities for anyone interested in private zoo ownership.

Although owning a zoo may seem like a dream job for many, there are countless responsibilities involved. For instance, different animals have different needs, making caring for them correctly very complicated. You will also need to comply with zoo regulations at both the local and federal level.

Because you'll need food, housing, and medical care for the animals in your zoo, you will need a large budget. For most people, it's unrealistic to open a full-size zoo. However, you could fulfill your dream of being a zoo owner by opening a petting zoo.

Families with children love petting zoos for their fun, educational value, and they can also be a profitable business when run correctly.

If you're someone who's interested in opening a zoo, your first move should be to apply for a license for displaying animals.

Next, you will need to find and lease a plot of land. Look for a location that's large enough to build your facilities and comfortably house your animals, which you will also need to lease. Although a free-standing zoo is a popular option, you could also choose a farm operation or a mobile zoo.

By some estimates, zoo startup costs can range between $10,000 and $50,000.

Your primary concern should be ensuring the health and safety of the animals in your zoo and your visitors. After taking the steps to make sure your zoo will be safe, you will need to develop a strong marketing strategy and hire dependable employees.

Decide What Type of Petting Zoo You'd Like to Open

When visitors come to a standard petting zoo, they will be able to see and physically interact with animals at a defined location.

In addition to these zoos, there are also traveling petting zoos. Traveling petting zoos will transport animals to different locations so that they can be viewed by people who normally wouldn't have access to a zoo. If you want to run a business that offers regular hours, you may want to establish a local petting zoo instead of a traveling petting zoo.

Traveling petting zoos frequently visit these locations:

  • Daycare centers
  • Community centers
  • Retirement communities
  • Schools
  • Events like fairs or carnivals

Research Federal and Local Regulations Regarding the Care and Keeping

When you operate a zoo, you will need to abide by the Animal Welfare Act, which requires humane treatment of animals.

While running your zoo, you are required to provide your animals with:

  • A clean space where they can move comfortably
  • An area where they can rest out of the view of the public
  • A proper diet
  • Quality veterinary care

Zoos are not allowed to be located in residential areas, meaning you can't keep your zoo in your backyard. You might be required to have neighboring businesses sign a waiver if it's possible they may be disturbed by the sound of the animals in your zoo.

Legal Considerations

Acquiring the right paperwork is the most important step in opening your zoo. If you are opening a petting zoo in the United States, you will need a Class C Exhibitor's license, which gives you the ability to own and display animals.

You will not be granted your license unless your zoo staff includes a full-time or part-time veterinarian. You will also need to prove you are carrying a liability insurance policy. Liability insurance is needed to protect your zoo from claims made by guests who have suffered an injury. Even the meekest animal may attack if they feel unsafe, and liability insurance will protect you from lawsuits stemming from these incidents.

Federal zoo licenses are distributed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which is a part of the Department of Agriculture. The number of animals you are exhibiting will determine the fees you will need to pay. To find out which permits you will need to run your zoo, you can contact the game or wildlife office in your state.

If you need help or information on how to start a zoo, you can post your legal needs on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.