Judy Hopps, a rabbit from rural Bunnyburrow, realizes her childhood ambition of becoming a police officer in Zootopia. Judy is assigned to parking duty by Chief Bogo, despite the fact that she is the valedictorian of the academy. Judy is hustled by a con artist fox team, Nick Wilde and Finnick, on her first day on the job.
Duke Weaselton, a small-time thief, later steals a package of Midnicampum holicithias crocus bulbs. Judy gets punished by Bogo for abandoning her parking assignment to apprehend Weaselton. Mrs. Otterton bursts into Bogo’s office, screaming for help in finding her husband Emmitt, one of fourteen animals that have gone missing. Judy volunteers, and Mayor Dawn Bellwether, the city’s assistant mayor, praises the task. Bogo has no option but to comply, but Judy is discreetly told that if she fails after 48 hours, she must quit.
Judy blackmails Nick into cooperating with her after learning that he was the last person to see Emmitt. She does so by secretly recording his confession to tax violation. They trace Emmitt down to an arctic shrew criminal leader named Mr. Big’s limousine. He claims Emmitt became “savage” and attacked Mr. Big’s chauffeur Manchas. Before the attack, the two go to see Manchas, a black jaguar, who claims Emmitt yelled about “Night Howlers.” Manchas then becomes enraged and pursues the two. Judy captures Manchas and calls for assistance from the ZPD, but Manchas flees before they arrive. Bogo demands Judy’s resignation, but Nick points out that she still has ten hours left. Nick admits to Judy that he became a scam artist since he sought to join the Junior Ranger Scouts as a child but was harassed and rejected merely because he was a fox.
Judy and Nick are granted access to Zootopia’s traffic cameras by Bellwether at City Hall. They find Manchas has been kidnapped by wolves, which Judy assumes are the “Night Howlers.” Following the wolves, the two track down Manchas and the rest of the missing animals, who are all “savage” predators being held at a nearby asylum. Leodore Lionheart, Zootopia’s mayor, ordered their capture and is investigating the source of their antics. Bellwether succeeds Lionheart as mayor after Lionheart and the asylum personnel are arrested for wrongful imprisonment. Judy asks Nick to join the ZPD as her partner after being rewarded for solving the case. He, on the other hand, rejects her offer furiously after a reporter persuades Judy to claim that predatory biology is to blame for the inexplicable “savageness” epidemic. Judy’s remarks, which were shown on television, instill fear and prejudice towards predators throughout Zootopia.
Judy quits her work and returns home, plagued with remorse. There, she discovers that Night Howlers are actually the crocus bulbs that Weaselton stole; they contain a neurotoxic that causes mammals to become vicious due to severe, long-term psychotropic effects. Judy returns to Zootopia and, with tears in her eyes, reconciles with Nick. Judy and Nick question Weaselton with the help of Mr. Big, who says he was hired by a ram named Doug. Doug is discovered in a municipal subway laboratory, where he is developing a Night Howler serum to be shot at predators with a dart gun.
Judy and Nick collect a serum pistol as proof, but Bellwether confronts them in the Natural History Museum before they can reach the ZPD, revealing herself as the mastermind behind a prey-supremacist scheme. Bellwether tries to infect Nick while Judy summons the ZPD, but Nick has disabled the pistol by replacing the ammunition with blueberries, and Judy reveals that she taped Bellwether’s confession just as the ZPD arrives.
Bellwether and her cohorts are apprehended, while Lionheart, who remains imprisoned, publicly denies knowledge of her plot and claims that imprisoning the sick predators was the “wrong thing for the right reason.” Judy rejoins the ZPD once the source of the virus is discovered and the predators are cured, and Nick becomes her partner and the first fox police officer.