Former East Rockaway resident Larry Wallach caused a stir in the village in 2017 when he was cited for harboring a pet wallaby, and he recently drew the ire of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for his alleged treatment of a pet tiger.
According to PETA, Wallach allegedly posted videos on Facebook that showed him using an electric prod to scare a juvenile tiger named Sheba, keeping him in a rundown enclosure and handling him in a dangerous and inhumane manner, which led the U.S. Department of Agriculture to cite Wallach for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.
Violations included failing to follow veterinary instructions for treatment of Sheba’s broken toe, confining him to an enclosure with broken floor boards, placing the tiger and a wolf at risk of injury by allowing them to interact, and not installing adequate fencing to prevent him from escaping.
USDA officials did not, however, speak to allegations that Wallach had shocked the animal with an electric prod. The USDA did not return a request for comment at press time, but Dr. Monica Bando, the captive wildlife veterinarian in the captive animal law enforcement division of the PETA Foundation, said she was disappointed that officials had not confiscated the animal.
Wallach “has demonstrated a complete inability to safely and humanely handle this wild animal and should no longer be able to keep or exhibit this or any other wild animals,” Bando said. “So the USDA cited Wallach for multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, but he was given a free pass to continue to use the electric prod.”
Wallach said he uses the prod as a training tool to calm animals down, not to shock them, and noted that he has trained up to 40 or 50 tigers, and has owned dozens of wild animals of various kinds over the years.
“Never once do I touch the animal with the” prod, he said. “I do use the noise because the noise is a training thing. I use it because it makes a noise. Not once did I ever light up a tiger, and the reason is because tigers remember. The last thing you want to do is piss off a tiger.”
But PETA — which has a motto that reads, in part, “animals are not ours to use for entertainment” — noted that the USDA had previously cited Wallach for animal welfare violations, including for confining a cub to a kennel in what was deemed a “cluttered garage,” not feeding an appropriate diet to cubs and allowing the public to interact with juvenile tigers.
“PETA is now calling on the feds to terminate his license and on the public to help end such cruelty by avoiding backyard animal-exploiting enterprises like the plague,” Michelle Sinnott, PETA’s associate director of captive animal law enforcement, said in a statement.
Wallach acknowledged that he was cited by PETA, but added that they visit him annually, and he often receives citations for “little things.” He maintains his licenses to own wild animals, though. “All my animals are treated amazing,” he said. “I have the best vets, I spend stupid money on food, stupid money on my vets.”
For 10 years, Wallach worked as a captain of a SPCA 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, he said, to “ensure he has a good life.” Wallach said he has visited the sanctuary four times since dropping the tiger there a few months ago, and Sheba is “doing great.” As for the broken toe, Wallach said Sheba was injured when jumping around, and the injury was healed when he dropped the tiger at the sanctuary.
Bando said, however, that Sheba went from being kept in a ramshackle enclosure under a deck at Wallach’s home to a roadside zoo.
Wallach, who now lives in Hewlett, was the subject of scrutiny from many of his East Rockaway neighbors in February 2017 when his pet wallaby, Jack, was confiscated by the Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 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.
Though he said he does not have any wild animals now, Wallach said he hoped one day to own a zoo in Tennessee. Bando said she hoped the USDA would take further action against Wallach in the future.
“PETA is asking the USDA to strip Wallach of his federal license,” she said, “but if it fails to take timely action, we are asking the public’s help by never buying a ticket to a show that exploits big cats by carrying them around to events, abusing and exploiting them on social media or using them as photo props,” she said.