The owner of a tortoise sanctuary has defied council officials who told her she must get a zoo licence or face prosecution.
The Tortoise Garden, in Sticker, St Austell, Cornwall, is home to around 400 animals and has been taking in unwanted, abandoned, injured or illegally imported tortoises for 12 years.
But Joy Bloor, 63, who runs the sanctuary, has been told by council officers the tortoises are "wild animals" and need to be covered by a zoo licence.
Mrs Bloor said: "As far as I'm concerned all my tortoises are pets, they are not wild animals. They couldn't survive in the British countryside without human help, they would die in the winters, that makes it a domestic animal."
Mrs Bloor, who says she is already struggling to meet the £20,000 annual cost of feeding and caring for the animals, said she cannot afford the extra cost.
The zoo licence costs £275 for the first four years. But, as well as the initial cost of the licence, Mrs Bloor said she would have to pay fees for government-appointed inspectors to assess her site when she applies for the licence, along with any subsequent formal inspections.
Cornwall Council said after an exhaustive process it was independently established that the Tortoise Garden must be defined as a zoo under the Zoo Licensing Act because Mrs Bloor keeps "wild animals" for exhibition to the public seven or more days a year.
This means she could still keep the animals without a licence but would be barred from opening to the public for more than seven days.
In a statement, the council said: "It would not be fair to turn a blind eye to the Tortoise Garden when other specialist sanctuaries in Cornwall have obtained zoo licences.
"In the event that the Tortoise Garden reopens in the future without a zoo licence in place, the council will have little choice but to consider prosecution."