Sloth Encounters has advertised in-home visits on social media since...

Sloth Encounters has advertised in-home visits on social media since the Hauppauge business was ordered shut by a State Supreme Court judge in Suffolk County last week. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Sloth Encounters, the Hauppauge sloth-exhibition business ordered to close last week by a State Supreme Court judge in Suffolk County, is advertising in-home visits with its animals.

The business, which operated in Islip Town since June, announced last week on Facebook and Instagram that it was offering the private, in-home encounters until at least Oct. 6, when company representatives are due in court.

In his ruling last Thursday, Judge Joseph Santorelli also issued a temporary restraining order forbidding Sloth Encounters from “publicly exhibiting” wild animals at its store or “exhibiting, possessing or harboring” them anywhere else in Islip that would violate town code.

Since then, Sloth Encounters has posted on social media about home visits in Brentwood and Ronkonkoma, both in Islip Town.

Speaking to Newsday on Tuesday, Larry Wallach, the federally licensed animal exhibitor and company owner, said he has taken sloths to residences for years.

“It’s under my license … It has nothing to do with my building — it’s off-premises,” he said.

In his estimation, Wallach said Wednesday in a follow-up interview, home visits are permitted under his federal license, and he no longer keeps the sloths at his 551 Veterans Memorial Hwy. store. "The sloths are with me," he said, without elaborating. "I'm doing what I've always been allowed to do. I don't want to break the law — I want to do it correctly."

Wallach’s license, issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, expires in 2023.

A USDA spokesman said the agency does not comment on local court orders.

John Zollo, the Smithtown-based attorney representing Sloth Encounters, said he was unaware of any home visits, but “Larry Wallach and Sloth Encounters are compliant with the court order.”

Zollo said he did not know where the business’s seven sloths were being housed.

Shortly after the court order, a post on Sloth Encounter’s social media account said the company was temporarily pausing all encounters. Subsequent posts recounted home visits in Port Jefferson, Brentwood and Ronkonkoma.

“Another AMAZING at home visit today in Ronkonkoma, Long Island!” read the caption for a photo of a man beaming with a sloth attached to his Jets sweatshirt.

Islip Town spokesperson Caroline Smith said the town’s goal is to ensure no business operates illegally in Islip, but did not address questions about the in-home visits and if town attorneys would seek legal action to prohibit the encounters in town limits.

Port Jefferson deputy attorney Richard Harris said “setting up private meetings for limited times within various homes” would not fall under the village’s zoning code. Rules vary in neighboring municipalities. Spokespersons for Babylon and Huntington towns said nothing in their codes forbids home visits there, but an Oyster Bay Town spokeswoman said sloths are not permitted.

Animal advocates have accused Sloth Encounters of exploiting animals for profit. Wallach has rehabilitated exotic animals and worked with the Nassau and Suffolk SPCAs, but USDA inspectors have cited him 14 times for animal care violations since 2014.

Most of those violations were deemed noncritical, but in 2013, his exhibitor license was suspended for six months after the USDA accused him of failing to provide adequate veterinary care to animals and other violations of the Animal Welfare Act. He did not admit nor deny the allegations, and told a local news outlet this summer that his sloths are treated well.

Sloth Encounters is scheduled to return to court on Oct. 6, when Santorelli will hear arguments over Islip’s request for a permanent injunction against the business.

Sloth Encounters, the Hauppauge sloth-exhibition business ordered to close last week by a State Supreme Court judge in Suffolk County, is advertising in-home visits with its animals.

The business, which operated in Islip Town since June, announced last week on Facebook and Instagram that it was offering the private, in-home encounters until at least Oct. 6, when company representatives are due in court.

In his ruling last Thursday, Judge Joseph Santorelli also issued a temporary restraining order forbidding Sloth Encounters from “publicly exhibiting” wild animals at its store or “exhibiting, possessing or harboring” them anywhere else in Islip that would violate town code.

Since then, Sloth Encounters has posted on social media about home visits in Brentwood and Ronkonkoma, both in Islip Town.

Speaking to Newsday on Tuesday, Larry Wallach, the federally licensed animal exhibitor and company owner, said he has taken sloths to residences for years.

“It’s under my license … It has nothing to do with my building — it’s off-premises,” he said.

In his estimation, Wallach said Wednesday in a follow-up interview, home visits are permitted under his federal license, and he no longer keeps the sloths at his 551 Veterans Memorial Hwy. store. "The sloths are with me," he said, without elaborating. "I'm doing what I've always been allowed to do. I don't want to break the law — I want to do it correctly."

Wallach’s license, issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, expires in 2023.

A USDA spokesman said the agency does not comment on local court orders.

John Zollo, the Smithtown-based attorney representing Sloth Encounters, said he was unaware of any home visits, but “Larry Wallach and Sloth Encounters are compliant with the court order.”

Zollo said he did not know where the business’s seven sloths were being housed.

Shortly after the court order, a post on Sloth Encounter’s social media account said the company was temporarily pausing all encounters. Subsequent posts recounted home visits in Port Jefferson, Brentwood and Ronkonkoma.

“Another AMAZING at home visit today in Ronkonkoma, Long Island!” read the caption for a photo of a man beaming with a sloth attached to his Jets sweatshirt.

Islip Town spokesperson Caroline Smith said the town’s goal is to ensure no business operates illegally in Islip, but did not address questions about the in-home visits and if town attorneys would seek legal action to prohibit the encounters in town limits.

Port Jefferson deputy attorney Richard Harris said “setting up private meetings for limited times within various homes” would not fall under the village’s zoning code. Rules vary in neighboring municipalities. Spokespersons for Babylon and Huntington towns said nothing in their codes forbids home visits there, but an Oyster Bay Town spokeswoman said sloths are not permitted.

Animal advocates have accused Sloth Encounters of exploiting animals for profit. Wallach has rehabilitated exotic animals and worked with the Nassau and Suffolk SPCAs, but USDA inspectors have cited him 14 times for animal care violations since 2014.

Most of those violations were deemed noncritical, but in 2013, his exhibitor license was suspended for six months after the USDA accused him of failing to provide adequate veterinary care to animals and other violations of the Animal Welfare Act. He did not admit nor deny the allegations, and told a local news outlet this summer that his sloths are treated well.

Sloth Encounters is scheduled to return to court on Oct. 6, when Santorelli will hear arguments over Islip’s request for a permanent injunction against the business.

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