Drs. Thomas Boyer and Michelle Willette formed the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians (ARAV) in 1990. Originally, the ARAV was called the Association of Amphibian and Reptilian Veterinarians, but quickly changed to ARAV, to avoid confusion with the American Association of Retired Veterinarians. Dr. Boyer started the Bulletin of the ARAV, which evolved into the Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery (JHMS), in 2000, under his editorship. Dr. Willette was essential in the early years of the ARAV, organizing committees, officers, the annual conference and proceedings, in conjunction with Dr. Wilbur Amand. Dr. Amand served as the ARAV’s first executive director, a stabilizing influence from 1994 to 2014 and successfully established the ARAV into the well-respected professional organization that it is today. The first meeting of the ARAV was held in 1994 and has continued annually in the United States. In 2010 the ARAV began sponsoring international conferences throughout Europe, then in Australia, next in Asia. Conferences are always on the cutting edge of reptilian and amphibian medicine and surgery and often in conjunction with other conferences such as the Association of Zoo Animal Veterinarians, Wild West Veterinary Conference, International Conference on Exotics, Association of Avian Veterinarians, International Conference on Avian Herpetological and Exotic Mammal Medicine, Association of Small Exotic Mammal Veterinarians, Association of Wildlife Veterinarians, Nutritional Advisory Group, and the American Association of Fish Veterinarians. Most recently the ARAV has been a strong partner of the ExoticsCon annual conference series. ARAV conferences boast a great international social gathering of like minded veterinarians in addition to a premier scientific program of lectures and wet labs, given by veterinarians for veterinarians.
In 1996 the ARAV started a research and conservation fund, with yearly grants, overseen by Dr. Meg Sutherland-Smith, then Byron de la Navarre, to support multiple clinically oriented research and conservation projects focused on reptiles and amphibians. To recognize excellence in reptilian and amphibian medicine and outstanding service towards this field, the ARAV established the Fredric Frye Lifetime Achievement Award, first awarded to Dr. Fredric Frye, in 1998, subsequently awarded to Drs. Elliott Jacobson, John Cooper, Kevin Wright (posthumously), Wilbur Amand, and Douglas Mader.
In 2008 Dr. Mark Mitchell took the helm as the editor-in-chief of the JHMS which moved to online editing, and, by the way, we still need your submissions! The ARAV created a reptile and amphibian veterinary specialty under the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners that earned recognition by the American Board of Veterinary Specialties of the AVMA in 2009. As of 2019, over twenty veterinarians have successfully earned the distinction of being reptile and amphibian specialists. ARAV members were also closely involved with the development of specialty colleges such as the European College of Zoological Medicine (Herpetological Medicine and Zoo Health Management) and the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Sciences (Unusual Pets Chapter). Dr. Dana Varble took over as executive director from 2014 through 2018, replaced by Wendy Dox, in 2019.
The ARAV logo, a Surinam toad, Pipa pipa, with 2 snakes forming the lateral body contours, was created by Sally Hagy-Boyer. The ARAV has benefited from a plethora of veterinarians, too numerous to mention (perusing the list of past presidents gives one a glimpse), and the international cast of veterinarians that are the ARAV continue to promote, improve and move reptile and amphibian medicine and surgery forward.