After you read about Larry Wallach and his illegal business, please take the following steps to help the sloths, kangaroos, and other animals imprisoned at Larry Wallach's Sloth Encounters in Hauppauge:
- Contact Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter at (631) 224-5500 and [email protected] to urge her to shut down Sloth Encounters now!
- Contact federal authorities at [email protected] to urge them to revoke Wallach's license (#21-C-0069) for failing to abide by local laws. It was just renewed despite Wallach failing to abide by local laws.
- Support our campaign for a more humane Long Island by becoming a one-time or monthly supporter!
- Contact [email protected] with evidence of Sloth Encounters' upcoming or recently past exhibitions. Exhibiting sloths, kangaroos, and other wild animals is illegal in Suffolk County, New York City, Oyster Bay, Hempstead, and indoor dining areas anywhere in the state.
Then join our Action Team to learn about more opportunities to help sloths and other animals suffering on Long Island.
What is Sloth Encounters?
Sloth Encounters is an illegal petting zoo and exotic animal "pet" store that subjects wild animals, including vulnerable baby sloths, kangaroos, porcupines, and capybaras to grabbing hands, noisy crowds, and ramshackle cages inside a store zoned for pool supplies in Hauppauge, New York. Its owner Larry Wallach has a long history of animal mistreatment, and his latest misadventure has been plagued with federal, county, and local violations from the moment it opened its doors.
Sloth Encounters' owner Larry Wallach has been cited for more than 50 federal violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including recent critical violations for lying to USDA inspectors about an incident involving the bite of a child at his illegal Hauppauge facility and for mishandling animals in a way that's dangerous to the public and the animals. Wallach was recently cited for two more violations of the Animal Welfare Act after he failed to show USDA inspectors a veterinary care plan for a baby sloth and told inspectors that the sloths stay at his brother or girlfriend's house when the facility is closed, when in fact he was harboring them at the Best Western Mill River Manor in Rockville Centre. After Best Western corporate was informed that Wallach was hiding sloths from federal authorities at this location, Wallach was ordered to remove them and vacated the hotel. At this point, he began staying with an employee who was squatting in a New York City apartment. Shortly thereafter, the Administration of Children's Services took custody of two children belonging to that Sloth Encounters employee after it apparently found she had endangered them by exposing them to dangerous, wild animals at Sloth Encounters.
Wallach was cited again by the USDA in March of 2023 for not providing federal inspectors access to inspect his facility. Wallach was then cited yet again in April of 2023 for mishandling animals after a USDA inspector observed an employee improperly feeding a baby kangaroo in a manner that "can lead to aspiration and accompanying aspiration pneumonia" and after a sloth was observed attempting to bite Wallach and patrons. The April 2023 inspection report reads:
[I]n a video posted to social media, a clip showed 10+ persons free roaming inside the sloth exhibit. There was excessive noise caused by loud speaking volumes of both children and adults. Loud noises are known to cause stress in sloths. An exhibited sloth was shown to be grabbing with its claws towards a person’s repeated finger pointing and nearly touching the sloth. The sloth was attempting to bite with an open mouth, and its hair was “puffed up,” as mentioned by the filmmaker [Larry Wallach]. The filmmaker was also pointing and moving their hand towards the sloth. Sloth behaviors such as these can be indicative of behavioral stress and discomfort and could potentially harm members of the public.
He was again cited for violations of the Animal Welfare Act in August of 2023 for failing to keep a written program of veterinary care for kangaroos, capybaras, a chinchilla, and a sugar glider; and for keeping the sloths in an enclosure with humidity insufficient for their health and welfare, leading to a baby sloth named Cosmo to scratch at his skin.
On September 12, 2023, Humane Long Island and four Islip residents filed a bombshell motion to intervene in Suffolk Supreme Court revealing that Sloth Encounters has remained open in spite of a Supreme Court justice finding the business and its owner guilty of contempt for defying court orders to close. Not only does our memorandum document Sloth Encounters directing customers to park off-site and ushering them through a back entrance of the store but it also reveals Wallach repeatedly exhibited the sloths, kangaroos, and capybaras at apparently unlicensed marijuana parties within Islip township where the organizer alleges the sloths "got high".
Wallach also recently pled guilty to illegal possession with intent to sell Nile monitors, venomous reptiles who grow up to 7ft long. The district attorney's office sought incarceration, however, the Honorable Judge Jonathan Bloom sentenced Wallach to only a $250 fine plus a $25 surcharge, basically the cost of doing business.
There are few lizards less suited to life in captivity than the Nile monitor. Buffrenil (1992) considered that, when fighting for its life, a Nile monitor was a more dangerous adversary than a crocodile of a similar size. Their care presents particular problems on account of the lizards' enormous size and lively dispositions. Very few of the people who buy bright-coloured baby Nile monitors can be aware that, within a couple of years, their purchase will have turned into an enormous, ferocious carnivore, quite capable of breaking the family cat's neck with a single snap and swallowing it whole.
The Suffolk County Supreme Court has granted Islip both a Temporary Restraining Order and a Preliminary Injunction enjoining Sloth Encounters from operating unlawfully while the court considers a permanent injunction to shutter the business, however, Wallach has not only continued to illegally exhibit sloths in Islip but has hauled them on the road and expanded his illicit business to exploit baby kangaroos, porcupines, bearcats, and other animals who are also illegal in the township. In contempt of court filings, Islip's attorney wrote that the business is displaying "blatant disobedience and unwillingness to comply with court order ... The Defendants are recidivists. They are determined to do whatever they want without regard for the law, the consequences of their actions, or the efforts of municipal authorities or this Court to stop them."
On July 11, 2023, the Suffolk County Supreme Court found Sloth Encounters and its landlord 777 Chris's Way, LLC guilty of civil contempt of court, writing:
It is the opinion of this Court that the location continues to be operated as a petting zoo under the pretense that it is a pet store. This conclusion is well supported by Wallach's own testimony.
The Honorable Supreme Court Justice Joseph A. Santorelli has further ordered that Sloth Encounters must:
immediately cease and desist from operating the subject premises as a 'pet store' or petting zoo" and that "the defendants shall be fined the sum of $250.00 per day, payable to the Town, for each day the defendants continue to operate as a pet store or petting zoo in violation of the March 30, 2023, Order of the Court.
Investigations by Humane Long Island have recorded Wallach comparing his business to the sale of drugs and stolen goods as well as his employees conspiring to sell illegal primates. We have additionally documented Wallach using his Hauppauge business as a base of operations to violate laws in Long Beach, Hempstead, Oyster Bay, and New York City, resulting in the Nassau County Department of Health and local code enforcement agencies warning local businesses against tolerating Wallach's unlawful behavior.
Sloths are tree-dwelling, tropical animals with sharp teeth and four-inch claws. They are mostly deaf and nearly blind when exposed to bright daylight. Red kangaroos are the largest marsupial in the world, growing up to 6ft tall and weighing up to 200lbs. A pet Gray kangaroo, which is roughly half the size of a Red kangaroo, made international news last year after he killed his owner and blocked paramedics from reaching him before being shot dead by the police. Porcupines have quills that can pose fatal to dogs and even animals as large as lions. Capybaras, the world's largest rodent, are aggressively territorial animals, having made international headlines for attacking pets and "wreaking havoc" on gated communities in their native Argentina and in Japan last year after one bit two children at a zoo, leaving one with a 9-stitch wound. In Maryland, a man's "pet" Nile monitors ate their owner while the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) has pleaded with the public for help controlling this dangerous and invasive species after owners released them into the suburbs. None of these animals are suitable pets or props.
Who is Larry Wallach?
Sloth Encounters is not Larry's Wallach's first run-in with the law. Larry Wallach has racked up more than 50 citations from federal authorities, countless local citations, and even received a 6-month suspension of his USDA license in 2013. The DEC also recently failed to renew his license to exhibit certain "dangerous animals", such as lions, tigers, and bears, following his chronic and blatant disregard for animal welfare and public safety, which is apparently why he's now exhibiting sloths who are not subject to that permit requirement.
In 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited Wallach after finding a sloth in his cluttered garage with hazards in and around the animal’s enclosure that “could injure the animal by burning, broken glass, or electrical shock.” The agency also cited a roadside zoo in Ohio after a tip from PETA that Wallach, holding an electric prod and accompanied by a dog, entered the cage of a young tiger he had dumped there after she outgrew the dilapidated cage that he had kept her in under the deck of his Nassau County residence.
The USDA previously cited Wallach for an incident in which he took an unrestrained tiger cub to a public park and allowed the public to pet and handle the animal. A tip from PETA about Facebook Live videos—one of which depicted Wallach electroshocking a young tiger named Sheba and threatening a dog with an electric prod—resulted in a slew of citations, including a "critical" citation for failure to follow veterinary instructions for treatment of Sheba’s broken toe, and further citations for confining her to an enclosure in disrepair that had broken floorboards, and putting her and a wolf at risk of injury by allowing them to interact in a dangerous manner.
Wallach previously made headlines in 2017 when a Wallaby was found 20lbs underweight and in squalid conditions in his garage.
Wallach – whose father owned the now bankrupt but once $700 million a year Robert Plan Corp – once partied in yachts, Rolls-Royces, and jets with the who's who of notorious characters currently under indictment for rape, wildlife trafficking, and money laundering.
Wallach has allegedly been involved with Joe Schreibvogel aka Joe Exotic, who is serving a 22-year sentence for two counts of conspiracy to commit murder, 8 counts of violating the Lacey Act, and 9 counts of violating the Endangered Species Act. He also reportedly fraternized with Bhagavan 'Doc' Antle, who faced disturbing allegations of sexual abuse, violence and misconduct in the Netflix true-crime docuseries Tiger King and its sequel, Tiger King: The Doc Antle Story, including allegations from two of Antle's former wives that he began sexual relationships with them when they were 14. Antle was recently convicted of four felony counts related to wildlife trafficking and is currently facing felony money laundering charges linked to human trafficking.
Wallach's inner circle also included disgraced pornographic actor Ron Jeremy who was indicted on more than 30 counts of rape and sexual assault. Jeremy can be seen on this video encouraging dangerous interactions between a poodle and a baby tiger in a pool at Wallach's former East Rockaway residence. Yet another friend and business partner of Wallach's was Sam Mazzola, a convicted cocaine and steroid trafficker who often claimed he shot a man dead at a fair and told his employees that mobsters once paid him to use his tigers for body disposal. The USDA revoked Mazzola's license to exhibit animals in 2009 and one of his bears fatally mauled a caretaker on his property a year later. Mazzola died during a sex act involving a 17-year-old boy the following year.
Even Wallach's veterinarian, Dr. Camilo Sierra—who is also a vet for New York City's cruel horse-drawn carriage industry—is a disreputable character, having his license suspended twice by the New York State Gaming Commission related to corruption, fraud, falsifying health certificates, and giving drugs to racehorses he never examined, and recently serving a 2-year suspended stay by the NYS Board of Regents for similar violations. (2001, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2020) Read more about Dr. Sierra at Bloodhorse.com. (2016, 2017)
The reviews you won't see on Wallach's website
A child was reportedly bit by a sloth at Sloth Encounters:
According to the father of this child, Wallach attempted to downplay the bite as a routine occurrence by saying his child was the fourth person to have been bit. Wallach was later cited for critical violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act for lying to USDA inspectors about this incident and for mishandling animals in a way that's dangerous to the animals and the public.
Sloth Encounters employee Ashley Herkommer reported yet another bite at Sloth Encounters:
Wallach has not only denied the occurrence of these bites, but told Patch, "You get bit because you're stupid."
Denise Flores, a former employee of Sam Mazzola—Wallach's former business partner—told Roadside Zoo News:
David Kolins, DVM, Mineola Animal Hospital, had this to say about a wallaby found suffering in Wallach's garage in 2017:
He was pretty tame, he's incredibly hungry so he's gnawing on anything that gets in his path ... Extremely underweight, thin, no muscle mass left on him, locked in kind of like a dog cage in a garage, left to fend for himself.
Nassau County SPCA President Gary Rogers agreed:
There was not adequate heat in there, there was no food or water and there were feces all over.
Suffolk County SPCA Chief Roy Gross told Newsday about Sloth Encounters:
[I'm] skeptical of most forms of animal exhibition and any form of promotion that might encourage people to keep sloths as pets ... They cost $6,000 to $10,000 to buy and they live 30 years in captivity … They don’t like to be handled.
Allowing hands-on contact is not ethical. Sloths are a solitary species, so they’re not social and can’t be domesticated. They are the prey and humans are the predator. Sadly, their natural reaction is to stay still, which confuses people into thinking they are content with being held and touched. And there’s another entirely separate issue: the effects of social media.
The more people visiting these encounters and sharing photographs of touching and holding a sloth, the faster these actions become normalized. People then come to economically troubled countries like Costa Rica or Colombia or Brazil with a preconception that sloths are touchable and holdable, which then presents greater opportunities for exploitation.
Julie Haussman, a New York State licensed wildlife rehabilitator who visited Sloth Encounters reported being horrified when Wallach placed a baby sloth in a sling around her neck:
I think the general public isn’t aware. They think, ‘Oh great, I can hold a sloth, and they probably love it because they don’t know better. This is what Wallach preys on.
Karenlynn Stracher, a former clinical supervisor of nursing for New York City’s Covid Testing and Vaccination response team and New York State licensed wildlife rehabilitator told the Long Island Press:
Sleep deprivation, fear, and emotional distress lower the body’s immune response, making one more susceptible to illness regardless of species. Remaining under duress for extended periods of time puts the sloths at Sloth Encounters at constant risk for illness, and doing so in close proximity to humans exponentially increases the risk of zoonotic disease, which according to the World Health Organization, are 60% of emerging infectious disease reported globally.
Photographs of sloths in the wild versus at Sloth Encounters Long Island
Top: A two-toed sloth sleeps during daylight hours, hanging from a tree branch at Dos Loritos wildlife rescue center in Peru before she's released to the wild.
Bottom: A two-toed sloth sleeps on the floor of a plastic carrier at Sloth Encounters Long Island before being awoken for a feeding encounter.
Top: A two-toed sloth in the wild of Cahuita, Costa Rica.
Bottom: A two-toed sloth tries to bite Larry Wallach outside Sloth Encounters, clinging to a clothing rack as a sanitation truck drives by.
Top: A mama and baby two-toed sloth at a rehabilitation center in Costa Rica after being hit by a car. Photo taken by Suzi Eszterhas, posted on slothconservation.org.
Bottom: A baby two-toed sloth being held by a visitor at Sloth Encounters Long Island who regretted the experience and contacted Humane Long Island.
On Jamie Fullerton's Beast Master podcast, Wallach confessed:
If the people in the animal world weren't so cuckoo, we would get away with so much!
Don't let Wallach con you. To file a complaint about Larry Wallach or Sloth Encounters with Humane Long Island, e-mail us at [email protected].