How it began
The trade in field-collected (native and non-native species) and captive-bred and reared reptile and amphibian species involves a variety of activities, including import/export, captive breeding, wholesale distribution, sale and ownership by individuals, zoological organizations and research institutions. The trade involves international and domestic movement of a wide variety of species of turtles, tortoises, lizards, snakes, and other reptilians and amphibians. These species have commercial, recreational, cultural and aesthetic values to diverse components of society.
The movement of such animals, if not properly managed, can cause the dispersal of ticks or other unwanted ectoparasites that accompany the specimens (field-collected or captive-bred and reared) being traded or introduced into captive breeding facilities. Absent the establishment of Best Management Practices and Standard Operating Procedures, facilities engaged in import, export, distribution or captive breeding may unintentionally cause the introduction and spread of unwanted ectoparasites that may be injurious to the host animals, other animals within or outside the facility, humans, or the environment.
It is well recognized that interest in the reptile trade and hobby is increasing and it provides a livelihood and enjoyment for many commercial businesses, and hobby and individual pet owners. Concerned members of the reptile trade and the reptile hobby recognize that the responsible management of reptilian and amphibian species benefits not only their activities, but also a far broader stakeholder community, such as agriculture and public health.
To meet these goals, a group of concerned members of the reptile/amphibian trade and hobby met with representatives of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Florida's Department of Agriculture to ascertain how myriad stakeholders could work cooperatively to minimize the risk of Reptile-associated tick infestations, which are potentially injurious to agriculture and animal and human health, to increase public education and awareness, to implement voluntary standards, and to coordinate activities with appropriate regulatory agencies.
Following that meeting, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) convened meetings in Florida to evaluate the feasibility of developing Best Management Practices (BMP) that would, among other things, provide a set of standards, most of which would be included in written Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) developed by individual participants as part of a voluntary compliance program that is designed to minimize the risk of the introduction of unwanted parasites or other identified organisms into the United States or the dispersal of such organisms among the states. Each participant would adopt written SOPs customized to meet the specific operations of each facility to ensure that the Plan's Best Management Practices have been implemented and are followed.
The National Reptile Improvement Plan (NRIP), a program to improve practices of persons involved in importation, sale or captive breeding of reptilian and amphibian species, was designed by individuals with expertise in importing, captive breeding, retail store operations, entomology, and veterinary medicine. The Plan is aimed at minimizing the risk of international or interstate movement of reptiles causing harm to the reptiles, livestock or the environment. Participation in the Plan is voluntary and available for persons that meet or exceed NRIP standards. The NRIP is designed to provide a cooperative Industry-State-Federal program that is a self-directed, self-regulated program that includes adoption and implementation of Best Management Practices, a quality assurance program, and independent verification through periodic inspections. While the Plan involves self-regulation, it works in cooperation with and under the guidance and approval of USDA-APHIS-VS and appropriate state authorities.
NRIP is not a private business. It is established as a function of a subcommittee of PIJAC, a non-profit trade association representing all segments of the pet industry in the United States. NRIP is designed to be of benefit to those involved with reptiles while at the same time safeguarding American livestock and agriculture.
Initially, PIJAC will provide the requisite infrastructure and staff support. Depending on NRIP's acceptance and areas of activity, PIJAC may establish a separate corporate entity to provide the services associated with implementation and maintenance of the Plan.
Every plan participant shall be required to obtain all necessary permits, licenses, or other authorizations required by federal and/or state law.
Participation in the Plan is voluntary and open to any person, business or other entity that desires to participate and comply with the standards set forth herein.
NRIP will meet annually for discourse, inquiry and investigation into better methods of handling, shipping, housing and husbandry.
As stated above, NRIP Accreditation is based upon a Plan Participant's adherence to the standards contained in the program. Accreditation is achieved through self-regulation and inspection that may be verified by a veterinarian, or a state department of agriculture and/or the United States Department of Agriculture veterinarian with an understanding in the handling and care of reptiles and amphibians.
The NRIP performance-based standards are prepared under the direction of the Reptile and Amphibian Subcommittee of the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council. These standards are subject to a broad and inclusive stakeholder review and consultation process both within and outside of PIJAC's membership.