Follow supreme Dharma, stop Sloth Encounters from committing any more atrocities

By John Di Leonardo

Last week, Supreme Court Justice Joseph A. Santorelli granted the town of Islip, NYpreliminary injunction against Sloth Encounters – an illegal petting zoo that subjects sloths, including vulnerable baby sloths, kangaroos, bearcats, and more to grabbing hands, noisy crowds, and ramshackle cages inside a former pool supply store – ordering the business and its landlord to “immediately cease any operations that are a violation of the Town of Islip Code.” Within 24 hours, Sloth Encounters’ owner was already observed violating it.

Sloth Encounters’ owner Larry Wallach has been cited for more than 50 federal violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including two critical violations in August 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. He’s since been cited three more times, including just weeks ago for not providing USDA inspectors access to inspect his facility. The Suffolk County Health Department has also cited Sloth Encounters for operating without a health permit and Islip has issued the business criminal court appearance tickets for possession of wild animals, occupancy of a building without fire marshal approval, prohibited use, and change of use without a permit.  

Unlike domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, who thrive under human care, sloths are tree-dwelling, tropical animals with sharp teeth and four-inch claws. They are mostly deaf and nearly blind when exposed to bright light. 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. Bearcats are nocturnal carnivores who grow to be as large as coyotes. To put it simply, wild animals are not props or pets.  

While Sloth Encounters is apparently continuing to operate in violation of court orders, it is also operating in violation of even higher orders: four of the five fundamental vows of Jainism. By denying the wild nature of these animals and violently stealing all that is natural and important to them in the pursuit of money and notoriety, Sloth Encounters is violating Satya, Ahimsa, Asteya, and Aparigraha.

Acharya Tulsi Ji


For this week’s Anuvrat, please honor the supreme Dharma and help wild animals on Long Island by contacting the below authorities: 

  • Contact Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter at (631) 224-5500 and and urge her to take Sloth Encounters back to court for contempt.  

  • Email federal authorities at [email protected] and urge them to revoke Wallach’s license for failing to abide by local laws.  

  • Email Suffolk County Legislative clerk and urge the legislature to pass Intro 1777 to restrict traveling exotic animal acts, both to protect public safety and animal welfare.


John Di Leonardo is the founding director of Humane Long Island. He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He also earned a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. John can be reached at [email protected].

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