Keeping the Herp Trade Healthy

PIJAC’s Herp Subcommittee is working hard to safeguard herptile owners and the businesses they support.


With 2016 underway, members of the herp industry across the United States face new opportunities, new legislative and regulatory attacks on businesses, and new challenges to reptile and amphibian ownership at all levels of government. 

In fact, last year the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) monitored or acted upon nearly 50 bills and regulations at the federal, state and local level that aimed to either restrict or remove ownership of many popular reptiles and amphibians in the pet trade—that’s almost one threat per week to responsible herp businesses and hobbyists. This trend continues as more and more bills and regulations percolate from those who want to damage the responsible import/export, transport, husbandry, housing, sale and possession of herps in the United States.

PIJAC is mobilizing its Herp Subcommittee to better address these issues, act as a brain trust on concerns for the herp industry, and protect consumer freedoms and the availability of pets. The subcommittee’s mission is to foster collaboration among the herp community to address regulatory and legislative issues impacting businesses, hobbyists, and the environmental stewardship of reptiles and amphibians as pets in the United States. The group meets regularly via conference call and includes animal care experts, business owners, and those concerned with advancing reptile and amphibian pet ownership.

It’s undeniable how important the Herp Subcommittee is to the future of herp ownership and the businesses these owners support. That’s why the group includes nine experts representing decades of experience in the care and husbandry of reptiles and amphibians, environmental stewardship relating to herps and responsible pet ownership.

Such expertise has proven to be a solid foundation for the pet industry to pursue reasonable solutions to the legislative and regulatory proposals, as well as local ordinances that frequently are not science-based and have the potential to adversely impact the herp community.  Since 2013, the subcommittee has orchestrated several successes and positive outcomes, some of which include:

• Collaborating with the PIJAC Zoonosis committee to update the Healthy Herp Handling poster promoting healthy reptile and amphibian handling practices; develop the Zoonotic Disease Prevention Series for Retailers; draft informative store signage on how to prevent zoonotic diseases; participate in meetings on rodent and reptile disease transmission with the Centers for Disease Control; and produce and revise best management practices (BMP) documents;

 Collaborating with the United States Association of Reptile Keepers on past and current attempts to pass legislation, ordinances, and regulatory activity that may impact herp ownership and related businesses;

 Attending Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meetings with reports and summary of actions affecting import and export of reptiles;

 Addressing the 2013 Center for Biological Diversity petition to list 53 herp species under the Endangered Species Act; 

​• Reviewing and commenting on the recent US Fish and Wildlife status review on the proposal to list wood turtles under the Endangered Species Act;

​• Submitting comments on proposed listing of flat-tailed tortoise and spider tortoise under the Endangered Species Act;

 Introducing federal legislation in 2013 to allow for the export of certain constrictors listed as injurious in air shipments with aircraft that land in a state for refueling;

​• Providing volunteer support for auctions at 2013 National Reptile Breeders Expo and several North American Reptile Breeders Conferences;

​• Providing extensive consultation on constrictor caging standards in Ohio.

The PIJAC Herp Subcommittee looks to build upon these successes in 2016 and beyond. As the subcommittee moves forward with addressing this year’s onslaught of legislation and regulatory activity, it is imperative to responsible hobbyists and business owners that the potential risks associated with reptiles and amphibians are determined through sound science rather than unfounded speculation, and that regulatory solutions are imposed only within the context of other effective risk management approaches, where appropriate.

To that end, the Herp Subcommittee will engage in a broader, pro-active approach that strongly encourages industry-driven management practices to anticipate and avert controversial or damaging incidents. A successful example is the “Tick Interception Protocol,” which was developed by reptile importers, the Florida Reptile & Amphibian Association and other industry trade associations. This protocol was endorsed by the United States Department of Agriculture and the State of Florida, in lieu of the possibility of additional federal or state regulations that might have restricted importation of commercially important species.

These accomplishments don’t happen by themselves. Fostering collaboration, safeguarding herp ownership, and advancing the interests of herp-related businesses requires an active group of dedicated experts and volunteers to participate. 

If you are interested in learning more about the PIJAC Herp Subcommittee and how you can help, please email Joshua Jones at

Scott Hardin is science advisor, exotic and invasive species, and Joshua Jones is director of legislative and regulatory engagement for the Washington, D.C.-based Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). Visit for more information on how to become involved.


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