Animal advocacy group calls for shut down of Sloth Encounters in Hauppauge
An animal advocacy group is raising concerns about Sloth Encounters after it was slapped with multiple violations by the town of Islip.
The Hauppauge business lets people go face to face with sloths, but an inspection done a week ago showed it may not be the safest place.
John Di Leonardo, the president of Humane Long Island, says he has made several complaints to Suffolk County and Islip town officials about Sloth Encounters in Hauppauge.
"They don't want to be here, they don't want to be in this building,” he says.
Larry Wallach, the animal specialist at Sloth Encounters, disputes Di Leonardo's concerns and complaints.
"Absolutely 100% safe,” he says.
Fire marshals cited Sloth Encounters with violations, including change of use with a permit, lack of fire extinguishers, lack of carbon monoxide detectors and electrical hazards.
The business was still allowed to operate, but town officials said it has 30 days to fix the issues before being issued a summons.
Wallach says those violations have since been corrected.
"The Fire Marshal came in and he said you need two fire extinguishers, two smoke detectors, they replaced them in fifteen minutes...they were done. We have a permit, everyone says we don't have a permit,” he says.
Wallach also says he's been issued a permit by Suffolk County to operate as a petting zoo and has not had any health or safety issues raised by anyone who's been inside.
"The people who are the customers, nobody has made any complaints,” he says
However, Di Leonardo says, “I've had complaints from people who've been inside."
He says one of his main concerns is that sloths are wild animals, not meant to be kept inside of a building. He says they should be in a sanctuary, and he plans to continue to push to make that happen.
"I would like to see this sordid sloth encounter shut down. And I would like to see these sloths go to reputable sanctuaries where they can live a natural life,” Di Leonardo says.
Wallach maintains the business is operating legally and safely.