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Where to Get Pet Snails

Back in July perhaps our strangest pets, our 5 land snails, made their Paw Print debut.  We've had them since June, almost 3 full months now, and they've grown an insane amount since we got them.  All 5 of them are still alive and well, even Escargot who had a cracked shell and Princess Polka Dot who was the smallest, most fragile of the snail herd.

That's what they looked like right after we got them.  They were so tiny!  I was originally going to take regular pictures of them to document their growth but I slacked off and they grew very very quickly.

This is what they look like currently.  If I remember correctly that's Escargot.  To be honest I didn't know how my post about the snails would be received.  My guess was that either people would think I was crazy, or else just be indifferent.  But my snail introduction post has actually generated quite a bit of traffic and I've received way more questions about these guys than I was anticipating!

By far the most common question people have been asking is how they can get pet snails of their own.  Apparently I'm not the only person drawn to their silly little alien faces.

That question isn't as easy to answer as one might think.  As I already mentioned in my previous snail post, Giant African Land Snails (GALS) while popular pets in other countries, are illegal to keep in the US.  Other, smaller species of snails require a 'plant pest permit' to transfer over state lines.  This permit is required for basically any species of snail that feed on plants.  Permits, though, are generally reserved for the purposes of research, education, and display in zoos.

Some types of aquatic snails, common in the aquatic pet trade, are actually legal to ship over state lines.  This post in particular, though, will focus mostly on land snails.  Some types of captive bred land snails can be eaten, so permits may be issued to snail farmers who raise land snails for human or animal (some types of reptiles kept as pets eat land snails) consumption.

With the exception of a handful of snail species that are considered to be "tree snails" that don't feed on crops, essentially you're not going to come across anyone who can legally ship land snails over state boarders for the purpose of keeping them as pets.  That leaves you with essentially two ways of acquiring them if you're interested in keeping them as pets.  Find them in the wild or find someone in your state with captive bred snails willing to give/sell you a few.

I'm not personally crazy about the idea of keeping wild caught snails as pets.  Wild snails are known as potential carriers of types of bacteria and parasites that can cause illness in people, including rat lung worms which can cause meningitis.

My own snails came from a long line of captive bred snails.  I got them from a Paw Print reader who lives in my state and also keeps snails as pets.  Although she keeps them as pets, her snails originally came from someone who bred them in captivity as reptile food.  Short of finding someone in your state who owns pet snails and is willing to give/sell you some, you can attempt to find someone in your state who breeds snails as feeders (for other animals or people - escargot anyone?).

I've heard rumor that some pet stores in the US sell live land snails, however I've never seen this myself.  Be careful purchasing snails online.  I've personally seen listings for live snails online for species that are illegal to ship over state lines.  If you're unsure whether a seller is offering to ship snails legally or not, look into the USDA laws on shipping snails and ask the seller for proof that they've obtained the proper permits.

No matter where you get your snails, care should always be taken to care for them hygienically.  Always wash your hands before and after handling snails, and keep them away from your mouth or any surfaces in your home where food is eaten or prepared.

Land snails are easy to care for and I find them to be very interesting animals, but if you're looking to keep them as pets they're not always the easiest animals to acquire.  Rightly so - many species of snails are prolific breeders and if released into environments where they are not native can be very damaging to native flora as well as crops.  I'm obviously not completely against keeping snails as pets, since I keep them myself, but (like all pets) they need to be kept responsibly.


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