Giant killer snails wanted dead or alive as hero dogs deployed to hunt them

Sniffer dogs are being used to hunt down giant killer snails invading in their thousands.

Florida officials are fighting against the giant African land snail which residents have been warned not to touch, let alone eat in a French inspired dish.

The not-so mini beasts are wreaking havoc in Pasco county, about 30 miles north of Tampa, in the US, where they can spread diseases deadly to humans such as rat lungworm, a parasite known to cause meningitis.

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The town of New Port Richey was plunged into lockdown the day after the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) announced that the species had been detected on June 23.

No fewer than 1,400 snails have since been captured dead or alive across 30 properties in the area.

Nikki Fried, the Florida state agriculture commissioner, said: "If you see one of these snails, do not touch it. Most importantly, do not eat them. This is not a snail to be put on butter and oil and garlic."

The species is considered to be one of the world's most damaging mollusc as it has the capacity to not only destroy at least 500 kinds of plant but feast on housing render as a source of calcium. Homes in the area are considered to be at risk as a result.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has revealed specially trained dogs are being used to sniff out the snails alongside a quarantine order barring the pests from being moved out of the area.

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The mammoth snails which can grow to be eight inches in length are known to reproduce quickly and could make around 2,500 eggs in just one year.

With a life expectancy of up to nine years, the snail's astonishing reproduction capabilities become all the more terrifying for scientists in the area.

According to the Florida's agriculture department, the giant African land snail has twice been eradicated state since they were first detected in 1969.

After six years of tackling the problem, Florida announced it was killer snail free in 1975 until a second wave in 2011 and has caused authorities to stump up $10.8 million (£8.9 million) in costs so far.

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