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Feds: East Rockaway animal rescuer mistreated his exotic pets

An East Rockaway man who helped rescue a Siberian tiger in Harlem in 2003 has mistreated at least some of his own exotic animals, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Larry Wallach kept a South American sloth in a cluttered garage, where it could have been burnt, cut by broken glass, or shocked — by a light fixture on the floor or a humidifier — both with exposed cords, said an Aug. 4 USDA report.

And a wallaby, native to Australia, was found in an outdoor enclosure with a back fence just 39 inches high, too low to keep it from escaping. Yet another wallaby nearly starved to death in Wallach’s backyard in February 2017.

A tiger cub was shocked with a cattle prod by Wallach, according to PETA, the Norfolk, Virginia-based advocacy group, which posted a video Wallach allegedly took. In the video he repeatedly waves the prod toward the cub as its alert buzzes, while asking: "You guys like the noise? Stay down."

Wrote the inspector, who reviewed the footage: "Also, the licensee can be viewed pulling the tiger's tail to get her to stop eating. The licensee can be heard saying ‘she's angry.’ "

Wallach, whose father owned a Bethpage insurance firm, The Robert Plan Corp., could not be immediately reached Tuesday for comment.

In January, the tiger cub was living in an outside pen with a dangerously rotting floor and once again, just a 39-inch-high back fence; it also had a broken toe; later, it was seen in another of Wallach’s videos being taunted by either a wolf or a hybrid wolf, the USDA said.

Yet, the USDA report notes, "Handling of all animals shall be done in a manner that does not cause trauma, behavior stress or unnecessary discomfort."

Wallach also was faulted for failing to tell the inspector where he got his animals — and not following required safety measures. In August 2020, for instance, he brought a 6-week-old tiger cub to a local park — where the public could pet it, the inspector said.

The cub eventually was taken to an Ohio sanctuary, which then was cited by the federal inspectors for allowing Wallach to enter its pen — with a cattle prod and a dog, according to Rebecca Smudzinski, a senior captive wildlife specialist at PETA.

Wallach's help rescuing a cougar, a lion, and that Harlem tiger named Ming, were chronicled, starting in the 1990s by Newsday, when he was wont to take his 100-pound panther, Mugsy, out on his 63-foot custom-built yacht, "Endangered Species."

Wallach once volunteered for Nassau's SPCA. Its current president, Gary Rogers, said. "The DEC should have removed those animals," he said. "These types of animals aren’t pets; they can kill you." Wallach’s neighbors are at risk, he said, and the animals deserve proper care. "All along with the other allegations that we say, they are being mistreated being kept in that type of environment."

Hempstead spokesperson Greg Blower said: "For a number of years, the Town successfully and relentlessly pursued prosecution of the individual in court until he was in compliance with the law." He added the town backs the current "enforcement efforts" and is set to help out.

In a statement, the DEC, referring only to exhibit licensing, said it "takes seriously our responsibility to oversee special licenses for handling exotic and dangerous animals, and it had revoked his license to exhibit endangered species. … As a result of these outstanding violations, DEC did not renew Wallach’s exhibition license. Wallach does not currently have a license to exhibit endangered species or state-regulated dangerous animals in New York."

Wallach did have his federal license suspended once, which appears to be unusual. Harvard Law School, urging greater protections for lynx, which Wallach also has kept, told the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in a May 2021 petition:

"He has been cited by the USDA for repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act ("AWA"), and the USDA even brought an official enforcement action — a rare occurrence for the USDA — against this exhibitor for denying animals appropriate veterinary care, failing to provide adequate enclosures, and failing to abide by minimum sanitation requirements."

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