New York Town Sues to Shut Down Sloth Encounters Offered by Serial Animal Exploiter

Published by Katherine Sullivan.

Update (September 16, 2022): The writing is on the wall for serial animal exploiter Larry Wallach and his Sloth Encounters business: The Town of Islip, New York—where the outfit is located—is taking legal action against it. After Wallach failed to take appropriate steps to come in line with town code, the town filed a lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction to get Sloth Encounters closed for good. The state’s Suffolk County Supreme Court has just issued a temporary injunction that will prevent the business from operating until further notice from the court.

The Case Against Larry Wallach

Sloth Encounters is in direct violation of Islip’s laws concerning zoning and possession of wild animals. In addition to filing the lawsuit seeking to shut this illegal business down, the town has charged it with four criminal violations. When PETA saw Wallach electroshock a young tiger named Sheba on video in 2020, we alerted the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Although the agency inexplicably let the abuse slide, it cited him with multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Wallach’s History of Abusing Animals

After Wallach came under fire for his terrible treatment of Sheba, he started keeping seven sloths prisoner for people to handle, prod, and terrify in a poorly refitted pool-supply store, just to make a buck. This includes keeping a baby sloth, who should have still been with her mother, in a tiny cage and forcing her into encounters with the public.

Take Action for Sloths

Sloth Encounters’ website says that it has “been in the business of caring for animals for over 40 years.” Clearly, Wallach’s interpretation of “care” is warped, as he exploits the animals for profit. The only place these sloths should be is at a reputable facility—and if Sloth Encounters gets shut down, they should have the opportunity to find peace at one.

Originally published on May 27, 2021:

Animals aren’t photo props for humans to pose with. They’re living, feeling beings who deserve our care and respect. Urge Wallach to throw in the towel on his failing, speciesist business and transfer the sloths to a reputable facility where they could get the proper care they need.

Larry Wallach surely didn’t intend to help PETA sound the alarm on him, but that’s exactly what the backyard animal exploiter did when he went live on Facebook electroshocking a juvenile tiger named Sheba, keeping her in a rundown enclosure, and handling her in a harmful and inhumane manner. After PETA alerted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to the videos, the agency cited Wallach for numerous violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

The citations included failing to follow veterinary instructions for treatment of Sheba’s broken toe, confining her to an enclosure with broken floorboards, putting her and a wolf at risk of injury by allowing them to interact, and not having adequate fencing to prevent her from escaping. Notice anything missing? Despite a regulation explicitly stating that physical abuse shall not be used when handling animals, the USDA did not cite Wallach for shocking Sheba with the electric prod, sending the message that he can continue to use the torture tool with abandon and without consequences.

The USDA had previously cited Wallach for a litany of AWA violations, including for confining a cub to a kennel in his cluttered New York garage, not feeding cubs an appropriate diet, and allowing the public to interact with juvenile tigers.

Animals are in danger every minute they spend in the custody of this sadistic exhibitor.

So PETA is urging more action: The feds must terminate Wallach’s license, and the public must help end such cruelty, too, by avoiding backyard animal-exploiting enterprises like the plague.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind