Pennsylvania Man Has Emotional Support Alligator

WallyGator is 'super sweet-natured,' owner Joie Henney
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 29, 2022 5:25 PM CDT
Pennsylvania Man Has Emotional Support Alligator
Wally, an emotional support alligator, walks into the SpiriTrust Lutheran Village at Sprenkle Drive in York, Pa.   (Ty Lohr/York Daily Record via AP)

Pennsylvania man Joie Henney has an unusual emotional support animal—but unlike owners of animals including peacocks and squirrels, he's not going to try to take it on a plane. WallyGator accompanies him almost everywhere, though, and sleeps in the same bed, the Washington Post reports. Wildlife experts say they would advise ordinary people very strongly against acquiring alligator companions, but Henney has been helping relocate rescued alligators and other reptiles to wildlife sanctuaries for 30 years, and Wally seems to be an unusually gentle gator.

Henney says he looked after Wally and two other juvenile alligators after they were found in a pond in Orlando in 2015. Two of them went to sanctuaries, but he says he "bonded" with Wally. He says he was surprised when the alligator, then around 20 inches long, never tried to bite him. "He wouldn’t eat live rats, and he really showed a love for cheesy popcorn," Henney tells the Post. Henney says the "super sweet-natured" gator, now 70 pounds and five-and-a-half-feet long, helped lift his spirits after several family members died in 2017—and, more recently, during his diagnosis of prostate cancer and subsequent radiation treatments.

Henney says he thought a doctor was "off his rocker" when he recommended that he register Wally as an emotional support animal—but the application was approved. Henney now takes Wally to many places, including educational presentations and schools and summer camps, but he tried not to startle anybody. "Everywhere I take him, I always ask permission first," Henney says. "That’s very important with an alligator." People reports that Wally, who has an official TikTok account, has been entered into the America's Favorite Pet contest and is currently leading his category. This is the first year the contest has been open to animals other than dogs or cats. (More emotional support animal stories.)

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