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Suffolk County Puts Forward New Animal Legislation Prompted by ‘Sloth Saga’

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After the months-long ordeal between the Town of Islip and Sloth Encounters Long Island proprietors, Suffolk County is getting involved with legislation aimed at traveling for-profit performances using exotic animals.

For those unfamiliar with the matter, animal rights activists have been nudging Islip to take action against Sloth Encounters and its proprietor, Larry Wallach, for alleged violations against provisions of the town code. In mid-August, Supervisor Angie Carpenter (R) came out to the public affirming that the location was “operating illegally” – a victory for John Di Leonardo, president of Humane Long Island.

Since the facility was subject to a temporary restraining order barring business operations, Sloth Encounters has taken to the road with its interactive sloth exhibit.

The legislation, sponsored by Legislators Trish Bergin (R) and Jason Richberg (D), states:

“No animal traveling performance or show may use wild or exotic animals, even if they are domesticated. This prohibition does not apply to an accredited and registered zoo, aquarium, university, college or other such research facility or environmental educational program. This prohibition further does not apply to a film, internet show, television or advertising, if such use does not involve a live public exhibition.”

The legislation carves out numerous expectations that those familiar with the matter believe would allow Sweet Briar Nature Center and the Holtsville Ecology Center to work without interruption to their activities.

 “Humane Long Island is proud to stand with Suffolk County Legislators Trish Bergin and Jason Richberg, to stop monkeys from being strapped to dogs and to stop sensitive sloths from being hauled to children’s birthday parties,” said Di Leonardo. “This important bill only protects the welfare of animals, but also teaches empathy to future generations and supports humane, cruelty-free performers who can go home at the end of their day and retire when they wish.”

Di Leonardo continued further to say: “Humane Long Island is urging the USDA and the Town of Islip to follow Suffolk County’s lead in protecting exotic animals and the public by respectively revoking Wallach’s license to exhibit exotic animals and to take him back to court for contempt.”

777 Chris’s Way LLC., the entity named in the lawsuit by the Town of Islip, is due back in court on December 1, when the fate of Sloth Encounters will be determined.

And regardless of the outcome, Suffolk County policymakers do not seem eager to welcome similar enterprises anywhere within the county limits.

Brian R. Monahan
Brian R. Monahan
News Editor for The Messenger Papers.