Pennsylvania Man Keeps Gator as Emotional Support Animal

PetMD Editorial
Published: January 21, 2019
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Image via U.S. First Responders Association/Facebook

Pennsylvania man Joie Henney, 65, has registered his 4.5-foot long alligator, Wally, as an emotional support animal. Henney says he decided Wally the gator would make a great emotional support animal after he noticed the reptile had a calming presence on children with developmental issues, the York Daily Record reports.

"He's just like a dog," Henney tells the outlet. "He wants to be loved and petted."

Henney takes Wally with him when he goes to speak at schools and senior centers; that’s where Wally meets and interacts with the kids. During his presentations, he educates his audience about alligators and the pressure that is put on their habitats from human activity.

The York Daily Record reports, “Whenever he does a presentation, Joie emphasizes that gators don't make good house pets, Wally being the exception to the rule. They are wild animals, and if the person handling doesn't know what he or she is doing, somebody could get hurt, fast.”

Henney explains to the outlet that while gators appear to be scary, “they really aren’t.” According to the article and Henney, crocodiles and caiman will attack humans—and gators will not.

As an emotional support animal, Wally can go with Henney virtually anywhere he goes, despite having some trouble at restaurants (Restaurant owners have argued that the gator could be carrying salmonella, which is not possible). “He has taken Wally to Revolution games, to Cabela's and Bass Pro Shop, to Lowe's and Home Depot. He takes him for walks around Cousler Park, which usually takes about five hours because everybody wants to stop to meet him,” the York Daily Record explains.

When Wally isn’t out and about meeting his adoring fans, he’s resting in his home. "He'll lay there all day long," Henney tells the outlet. "That's what he does. He's pretty lazy."

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