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Primate licensing Published Date: 25/03/2024

The Animal Welfare (Primate Licences) (England) Regulations 2023 have been signed into law and will come into force from 6 April 2026.

The legislation brings in a licensing scheme, setting strict rules to ensure that only private keepers who can provide zoo-level welfare standards will be able to keep primates.

From 6 April 2026, it will be an offence for anyone to keep a primate without a relevant licence. Failure to comply with licence conditions could result in an unlimited fine, removal of the primate or imprisonment for a term of up to six months. Guidance on the regulations will be published in due course.

From the explanatory notes accompanying the Regulations:

This instrument will improve the welfare of primates in England by requiring keepers of primates to be licensed by local authorities and for those licences (“specialist primate licences) to contain minimum welfare standards which can be monitored and enforced by local authorities. Existing and prospective keepers of primates will need a specialist primate licence to keep primates from 6th April 2026.

The licensing regime seeks to prevent primates being kept in a domestic setting in poor welfare conditions. A keeper will need to apply for a specialist primate licence from the local authority in whose area the premises at which the primates are being kept or are to be kept. Licences will only be granted after a satisfactory inspection conducted by the relevant local authority.

Local authorities can inspect more frequently if welfare issues are identified. Inspections will assess record keeping, provision of emergency arrangements, care and maintenance, nutrition and feeding, physical health, environment, behaviour, handling and restraint, transport, and breeding.