Former East Rockaway resident and animal exhibitor Larry Wallach has drawn the ire of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for his alleged mistreatment of animals.
He has said, however, that PETA’s claims against him were false, and that he intended to sue for upward of $5 million for defamation. A new USDA report criticized Wallach for keeping 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.”
“Wherever Larry Wallach goes, the potential for disaster follows,” said Michelle Sinnott, PETA’s foundation associate director of captive animal law enforcement. “PETA is calling on the public to stay away from Wallach and is urging the authorities to revoke his license before his recklessness gets someone hurt.”
But Wallach said PETA has an agenda against him and has been coming after him for years, noting that the USDA renewed his license to handle wild animals over the summer, and he must renew the license every three years.
“They said I was cited, and it’s not true,” Wallach said. “A citing is when a cop pulls you over and writes you a speeding ticket because you did something bad. Your inspector comes two times a year and says fix this, change that, do this. I go through that every year, and anything I’ve ever had to change was done instantly.”
Wallach also said the USDA “loved” his pet sloth, which he named Edward Scissorhands, and he holds live shows with the animal on weekends. However, in July, the USDA probed Wallach for an incident in which he allegedly took an unrestrained tiger cub to a public park and allowed members of the public to pet and handle the animal. Earlier this year, a tip from PETA about Facebook Live videos — one of which PETA said depicted Wallach electroshocking a tiger named Sheba — resulted in several citations, including failure to follow veterinary instructions for treatment of Sheba’s broken toe, 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, according to PETA.
The USDA 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 dropped there after “she outgrew the dilapidated cage that he had kept her in under the deck of his Nassau County residence,” according to PETA.
But Wallach said he used the noise from the cattle prod as a training mechanism to help animals learn how to behave, and he never uses it to electrocute or shock his pets.
“We’re getting ready to sue them for lying,” Wallach said of PETA, noting that he has been in contact with several lawyers. “They made mistakes. They said I electrocuted the tiger. I did not electrocute the tiger. I’m going to hit them where they deserve to be hit. I’m done and so are a lot of people.”
In July, Wallach acknowledged that he was cited by PETA, but added that members of the organization visit him annually, and he often receives citations for “little things,” and he said he treats his animals “amazingly,” including his pet sloth. It was 8 pounds when he first got it, but now weighs 50 pounds because, he said, he feeds it well.
For 10 years, Wallach worked as a captain of a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals wildlife unit, and he often puts on exotic animal shows. He said Sheba was donated to him last August, and he quickly trained him. He said his dog, a Husky named Rocket, got along well with the tiger, and they learned to coexist. After he finished raising Sheba, he sent him to Noah’s Lost Ark Animal Sanctuary in Ohio, which was also cited in the USDA report.
Wallach, who now lives in Hewlett, was the subject of scrutiny by many of his East Rockaway neighbors in February 2017 when his pet wallaby, Jack, was confiscated by the Nassau County SPCA after it was discovered without food or water in the garage of Wallach’s former home on Seawane Road. It was taken to the Mineola Animal Hospital, and after it gained weight and muscles in his legs, the SPCA moved him to an animal sanctuary.
Wallach said he was in a spinal meningitis-induced coma for three weeks and pronounced dead twice, which is why the animal was without food or water at the time. Nevertheless, he was also issued summonses for harboring wild animals by the Town of Hempstead’s Building Department, according to previous Herald reporting.
Wallach said he has kept animals and performed with them for several decades without any major incidents. “I’ve doing it for 35 years,” he said. “Nobody’s ever gotten hurt, no animals ever got hurt, and animals never escape. I’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people and educated them all.”