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Exotic Animal Store Shuttered After Lengthy Legal Battle Over Sloth Ownership



This past week, Long Island officials finally closed down an exotic animal store that had been at the center of controversy for 18 months. The store, known as Sloth Encounters and owned by Larry Wallach, offered visitors the chance to interact with seven sloths among other exotic creatures in Hauppauge.

The Town of Islip, where the store operated, had been striving to shut it down since it opened in June 2022. State law does not explicitly ban the ownership of sloths, but the town regulations prohibit the possession of ‘wild animals’ without proper permits or licenses.

Larry Wallach, a licensed animal exhibitor by the USDA, attracted criticism dubbing him ‘Long Island‘s Joe Exotic.’ Wallach has had run-ins with authorities and animal welfare groups, including allegations concerning his involvement in trafficking operations in Florida and mistreatment of animals in his care.

Recent investigations by the Humane Society revealed disturbing practices at Sloth Encounters, including reports of animals being kept in crowded and unsanitary conditions. Cases of mistreatment such as smacking a sloth with a water bottle and grabbing the animals by the neck were documented in the investigation.

In addition to the sloths, the store housed a variety of animals, including a kangaroo, capybaras, and more, in cramped spaces. The conditions were brought to light after a customer reported being bitten by a sloth in August 2022, leading to further scrutiny by USDA inspectors.

Despite the closure of Sloth Encounters, concerns about the welfare and whereabouts of the animals remain. Larry Wallach has been evasive about the animals’ relocation, stating that they are ‘away.’ Advocates for animal rights have condemned Wallach’s actions and called for stricter oversight of his operations.

Rachel Adams

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