Candie and Chipper, two members of the “Beagle Brigade", were on patrol at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Thursday when they alerted CBP’s Agricultural Specialists to an individual’s bag at the international arrival baggage claim area, the agency said in a press release.
After searching the suitcase, agents found two of the giant snails, alive, and several illegal fruits and vegetables that the Beagles also alerted agents to.
The Giant African Snail was first found in the U.S. in Florida in the 1960s and took approximately 10 years and $1 million to eradicate it, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It was later reintroduced into Florida and Hawaii in 2011.
The snail, which can grow up to eight inches long, is considered “one of the most damaging snails in the world” as it feeds on at least 500 different types of plants and can cause structural damage to stucco and plaster buildings.
It also can be harmful to humans because it carries a parasitic nematode which can cause meningitis. According to the USDA, Giant African Snails are difficult to eradicate because they reproduce quickly, producing around 1,200 eggs in a year.
“CBP is on the frontline 24/7, searching for anything entering our country that could potentially harm our citizens,” Lee Deloatch Atlanta CBP Acting Area Port Director said in a press release.
“Our beagles sniffing out these snails highlights how valuable our canine members are to protecting the U.S.”
The snails were turned over to the USDA for further evaluation and the prohibited food was destroyed.
The traveler was not fined or charged in the incident. It was not immediately clear if the snails were intentionally brought in to the U.S. or if they managed to find their own way into the suitcase.