Animal exploiter Larry Wallach has been cited by the feds with five violations for the disturbing conditions he’s keeping a sloth and a wallaby in.
An inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture visited Wallach’s East Rockaway, NY, home in June and found he’s keeping a sloth in a garage with junk all over the place and bicycles hanging from the ceiling. The sloth’s enclosure was covered with a fabric tarp and inside the enclosure was a heat lamp and a humidifier with exposed cords.
“The sloth has access to the exposed light and the humidifier, which could injure the animal by burning, broken glass, or electrical shock,” the inspector noted.
The inspector also discovered that Wallach had no acquisition records for a wallaby at his home. The back of the wallaby’s enclosure is only 39 inches high, and the inspector noted there’s no secondary perimeter fence to prevent the wallaby from escaping from the property if it were to get out of its cage.
Wallach previously owned a wallaby in 2017 but the animal was seized by the Nassau SPCA after they found it was neglected, living in a filthy enclosure in a garage with no heat, news reports indicate.
Wallach was also cited for taking a six-week-old tiger cub, named Sheba, to a public park in June 2020 and allowing the public to handle and pet the cub.
Wallach was previously cited by the USDA for his care of Sheba in January 2021. The cub sustained a fractured front foot but instead of following veterinary recommendations to confine the cub for a month until the injury could heal, Wallach posted video of the tiger running and playing with his dog and jumping off of a coffee table, according to the USDA report.
Wallach was also cited for a video of Sheba interacting with an adult wolf. At one point in the video Sheba swiped at the wolf with her paw. Wallach was also seen pulling Sheba by her tail to get her to stop eating, the USDA report indicates.
Inspectors found the enclosure Sheba was being kept in was inadequate. The floor of the enclosure was composed of wooden boards that were filled with rotting holes that Sheba could get her paw caught in, which could cause injury. The inspector noted the enclosure did not have an adequate perimeter fence to prevent Sheba from escaping.
In early 2021, Wallach sent Sheba to Noah’s Lost Ark Rescue Center in Berlin Center, OH. In May 2021, USDA records indicate Noah’s Lost Ark allowed Wallach to reach into Sheba’s enclosure and touch her on the face and they allowed him to enter the enclosure of the 10-month-old white tiger with his dog while carrying a cattle prod.
A cattle prod is a handheld electrical device that is used to shock an animal.
The USDA cited Noah’s Lost Ark with a critical violation for the incident, noting that not only was Wallach and the dog at risk, but the tiger was also at risk of being shocked by Wallach.
In response to news articles about the incident, Noah’s Lost Ark owner Ellen Whitehouse posted to Facebook, apparently praising Wallach for his work with big cats and acknowledging that Wallach has brought animals to Noah’s Lost Ark before.
“I still don’t understand why it was written up because there is a facility down south that is also licensed and allows people to pay every single day and interact with big cats, elephants, chimps, and they are not being written up for it,” Whitehouse said.
Whitehouse said Wallach is a volunteer at the facility and under Ohio law volunteers can enter the enclosures “at any time.”
Wallach also posted to Facebook, indicating he had a longtime relationship with Noah’s Lost Ark and he has volunteered at the facility for fifteen years. He acknowledged he does use a cattle prod on his exotic animals for training, but claims he only uses it “for the noise.”
In May 2021, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) posted a video of Wallach shocking Sheba with the cattle prod. The organization said they turned the footage over to the USDA, but the USDA did not cite Wallach for the incident.
Both Wallach and Whitehouse have a troubled history with big cats.
A witness said Wallach formerly worked with animal exploiter Sam Mazzola, now deceased, and the pair opened a business together at the Midway Mall in Ohio in the early 2000s. Wallach would bring big cat cubs to the mall for cub petting and photo opportunities and an employee said she witnessed Wallach drugging the cubs so they would stay calmer for interactions.
In 2012, the USDA filed an official complaint against Wallach for numerous infractions. The agency said Wallach failed to obtain veterinary care for several animals that were suffering with untreated medical conditions. The USDA said Wallach failed to handle the animals in a safe manner and forced them into unnatural encounters with the public.
The USDA alleged that a juvenile female tiger in Wallach’s possession was so distraught she was screaming and crying. The tiger was so distressed that it had lesions on its nose from rubbing on the bars of its cage. The complaint alleges Wallach was keeping an exotic feline in a vari-kennel in his cluttered garage with the garage door open.
Whitehouse founded Noah’s Lost Ark in 2000 and in 2004, she was sued for stealing a lion cub from an activist who asked her to temporarily care for the animal until it was healthy enough to be moved to a sanctuary in California. Whitehouse was court ordered to return the cub, but a former employee said she instead purchased a different lion cub and returned that cub to the activist.
Noah’s Lost Ark is rated one star on Charity Navigator. Several Noah’s Lost Ark visitors posted Google reviews indicating the facility is not a true sanctuary but is instead a roadside zoo.
“This place felt like a prison filled with unhealthy, depressed animals,” one reviewer said. “Really truly not an animal welfare/rescue/sanctuary at all; more of a roadside zoo situation.”
The USDA ordered both Wallach and Whitehouse to correct their animal welfare violations.