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Giant African Land Snail Detector Dogs, Handler Teams Graduate in Miami

May 27, 2014

140,000 Snails Eliminated in Miami-Dade County Since Eradication Effort Began

 

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New detector dog teams celebrate certification. From left: Michael Sabato, Omar Garcia with Raider, Bryan Benson, Jodi Daugherty (USDA), Larry Bynum with Bear

 

Black labs Raider and Bear, along with their handlers, graduated yesterday as trained teams to sniff out destructive and invasive Giant African Land Snails in Miami.

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Raider poses with his graduation cap.

The handlers – Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services employees Omar Garcia and Larry Bynum – and their dogs received certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Detector Dog Training Facility after a 10-week training period, four weeks at the U.S.D.A. training facility and six weeks of on-the-job training in Miami-Dade County.

“I would like to congratulate the new members of our team, Raider and Bear,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “The work of these trained dogs and their handlers will greatly enhance our eradication efforts and ensure that these destructive snails do not spread across the state.”

The dogs were specifically trained to sniff out Giant African Land Snails, known as GALS, a species of snail that is native to Africa and were detected in Florida in 2011. Eradication efforts since that time have eliminated 140,000 snails through dog detector teams, snail bait, regular survey and collection activities, development of experimental trap designs, modification of habitats to eliminate snail hiding places, enhanced inspections of lawn maintenance companies and solid waste facilities, and continued public outreach and education activities.

Through a multifaceted public awareness program, the department is urging Miami-Dade residents to be vigilant of GALS and report any sightings. Residents who believe they have found a snail should call the department’s toll-free helpline: 888-397-1517. About 85 percent of new finds of GALS were from property owners who called the helpline. The GALS have not been found outside of Miami-Dade County.

Scientists consider GALS to be one of the most damaging snails in the world because they are known to consume at least 500 different types of plants. The snails can also cause structural damage to buildings; they consume plaster and stucco to acquire the calcium needed by the snails to grow their large shells. In large numbers, GALS can cause extensive damage.

Public health concerns also surround this and other types of snails and slugs because they can carry a parasite that can cause a form of meningitis in humans and animals.

Originally from East Africa, the Giant African Land Snail, Achatina fulica, is one of the largest land snails in the world, growing up to 8 inches in length. Each snail can live as long as 9 years. In a typical year, an adult can produce about 1,200 eggs.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit http://www.FreshFromFlorida.com.

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One Response to “Giant African Land Snail Detector Dogs, Handler Teams Graduate in Miami”


  1. […] Raider to help stop the invasion of the Giant African Land Snail or GALS for short. According to FDACS Divsion of Plant Industry, the snail was discover in 2011 in Miami-Dade County and has a established reproductive population […]


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