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Giant African Land Snails - The Seriously Misunderstood Pet

Updated on March 5, 2015

Introduction

Warm welcome to everyone reading this hub. You might be someone looking for information on Giant African Land Snails (GALS) or someone looking to keep them as a pet, either way, this hub is written to explain the truth on the snails that can make wonderful pets

Is it legal to keep them as pets? - Yes and no. In the UK they are 100% legal as pets. In the US and many other countries they are 100% illegal so please check before you purchase any. It is illegal in most countries (including the UK) to release the eggs or snails into the wild, this includes not freezing the eggs or smashing them before binning them.

Are they dangerous or destructive pets to own? - No, but like with any pet you should be vaccinated before getting one, especially Meningitis. Living in a tank they are 100% dependent on you. They have no teeth or claws to bite and they don't have the ability to move very quickly or hurt you in any way. This makes them a great first pet, a pet for children (supervised), or a pet for people with little time.

Why are they portrayed so poorly in the media? - A combination between ignorance, desperation for stories and facts taken from ignorant people that do not care for the snails correctly. Take Pit bulls for example, they have been enforced with the image of dangerous fighting dogs when in most cases this is not true. Snails have been enforced as disease carrying eco-munchers that are out to kill us all. Go figure.

Take a look at how happy and bright this snail looks.
Take a look at how happy and bright this snail looks.

Why are they kept as Pets?

  • They make excellent first pets for people of any ages and are great for children provided you are supervising them at all times.
  • They take up little space and cost very little to keep.
  • They cannot bite, scratch or physically hurt you in any way.
  • They don't mind being handled especially when they grow larger.
  • They can live up to 10 years but commonly 5-7 or sometimes more!
  • They are a fascinating pet to watch and own.
  • They're exotic without being extreme or needing the extreme equipment of many reptiles.
  • They are often cheap to purchase.
  • They're quiet and usually nocturnal.
  • For a tank of 1-2 snails they only need cleaned out every 3-4 weeks.
  • They can grow up to 10 inches long.
  • You can set up a really creative and beautiful habitat for them which adds an amazing look to your home.
  • There are all different sub-species with all different colours, types, patterns and sizes.
  • They can be kept in groups, pairs or alone.
  • They don't require any training.
  • They rarely get sick and rarely need to see a vet.

Young and baby Albino Achatina Reticulata snails
Young and baby Albino Achatina Reticulata snails

GALS and the Destruction of our Ecosystem

You have probably heard about the devastation those demon snails have caused to wipe out our ecosystem, destroy our crops, abduct our children from their beds and shoot up the local supermarket looking for lettuce. Is it really true?

It's not so much the Giant African Land Snails, it's every type of snail, slug and insect. It's why people put slug repellent down around their flowers or salt things. Bugs of all descriptions will destroy plants, crops and even eat other animals. GALS are no different to your regular garden snail when it comes to destruction, only they are much larger and noticeable so they get the blame. The snails are doing what they do to survive, eat.

As with any pet, there are responsible people that worship their pets, and dunderheads that release these snails into the wild, overbreed them or hand them out to people with no intention of caring for them. It is illegal to release them into the wild in most countries. It is illegal to release them in the UK where they are legally allowed as pets. It is also illegal to release their eggs or dump their eggs in the rubbish without freezing or destroying them first.

Land Snails kept as pets in your house are not going to sneak out at night in a little villain suit and destroy the ecosystem and return to their habitats before you wake up. Don't blame the snails for gobbling up our ecosystem, blame the idiots that put them out there illegally.

Achatina Fulica baby snails
Achatina Fulica baby snails

Snails and Meningitis.

This is probably the most frightening thing people come up with when it comes to GALS. Is it really true? do they carry this disease?

In truth, yes, they CAN carry the disease. Meningitis infects the snails via rat lungworm which they can catch off of wild rats after ingesting their poo. This infection is much more common in the US or especially in tropical climates and where the snails have been allowed out in contact with wild animals, including wild snails. Snails that are bred in captivity and house with other land snails that are fed on our veggies and kept away from wild snails are at a much lower risk, especially in non-tropical countries and the UK. Your land snails from a breeder are a much lower risk than the snails in your garden.

It is very important you are vaccinated for Meningitis before getting a land snail as a pet. Please don't let this frighten you they have been kept as pets for years and the ones who do get Meningitis are people who have eaten raw or undercooked snails, especially wild snails. In other words, you actually have to eat the snails, be unvaccinated and unlucky to get sick. Holding one on your hand won't make you sick, even eating a raw one may not make you sick, keeping them as pets won't make you sick.

Still frightened? put it this way. People who keep cats are at a MUCH higher risk of being hospitalised or seriously ill from their cat bite, claws or fur contamination than you are from a snail. Cat bites often cause blood poisoning, tetanus, bacterial infections, etc. This also includes the claws. This is why you are recommended tetanus or sometimes TB vaccinations after a dog/cat bite. Snails cannot bite or scratch.

Snails and the Law

The following countries allow GALS to be kept as pets legally and do not require any permit or declaration of captive bred African Land Snails:

  • The United Kingdom - England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
  • African Nations - where they are native and wild.
  • China - as a common food item, not as a pet.
  • India - not illegal but considered a pest.

The Following Countries it is ILLEGAL to keep GALS as pets or for any purpose. They are prohibited and considered a dangerous pest:

  • USA - All of the United States of America
  • Canada - All provinces.
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • French Polynesia (Bora Bora, etc)
  • Indonesia
  • China - as pets.
  • Japan
  • Thailand
  • Taiwan

They are basically illegal in any warm or tropical climate where they can breed out of control and cause serious harm to the ecosystem. Often this is in countries where they do not have the resources to control the outbreak.

Please, please check with your local government. It is very hard to find out where they are and are not illegal apart from the UK, US and Canada, online. If it is illegal to keep them in your country, don't have them. It is illegal to import them just about anywhere. It is illegal all over the world to release them or their eggs into the wild.

The Hard Truth

GALS can make wonderful pets for just about anyone willing to research and care for them correctly. As with any animals there are guidelines, advice and necessary equipment they need. They are much safer to keep than garden snails which are much more likely to make you sick.

Yes, they can be extremely destructive to the eco system. Yes they are hermaphrodites and can breed out of control, yes they can be large and eat a lot. These are all factors a sensible person can manage. Check for eggs every couple of days, make sure they are fed, watered and kept in the correct environment. Keep a seal on the tank so they can't get out. Dispose of things correctly and your snails will be just fine. The only person responsible for your snail is you.

You can think of a million bad things for these snails, but let's cover some other animals:

Dogs are more likely to cause physical harm to another human being or animal which can result in massive infection, hospitalisation or death. They can also transmit disease to humans and other dogs. Tetanus, rabies, TB, etc are all examples that dogs and cats can carry.

Cats carry a high risk of blood poisoning, can carry Salmonella and other illnesses especially due to the fact they spend much time outdoors and can easily pick things up from wildlife or other cats.

Snakes carry a good risk of Salmonella as well as being potentially dangerous to other pets, children and adults.

Ferrets can do serious harm with their bites, can and will kill other pets such as rabbits, rodents and even small dogs/cats. They can also transmit disease but less so if kept in the house alone.

So before you judge a friendly old snail, you should also take the time to judge every other pet out there. Don't allow the media to portray them as something they are not when kept legally and in the right conditions. There are far more frightening, destructive animals than a GALS.

Please leave a comment below to add to the discussion or if you have any more legal/illegal countries to add to the list :)

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