An alligator as an emotional support animal! Sounds unusual, right? Well, the sight is not so unusual for Joseph Henney, a Jonestown, Pennsylvania resident, who lives with WallyGator, a licensed emotional support alligator.
“He’s super sweet-natured. When he turns his nose toward you, that means he expects a kiss,” says Henney, 69, about WallyGator. The two have formed a strong bond over the years and the alligator joins Henney everywhere, from the park to the grocery store to his bed.
WallyGator is also a Social Media Star
The emotional support animal is already a star on social media, with over 718,000 likes at 71,000 followers on its TikTok account. It gained even more public attention when Joseph took him to Love Park in Philadelphia last Friday.
The 70-pound reptile has a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth, just like any other gator, but its friendly nature makes it different. WallyGator even gives hugs to buyers at the grocery store, of course, only if they are okay with it.
Henney says most people in his community are aware of his ‘friend’, the 8 year old, 5-and-a-half-foot alligator. “Wally is definitely not your average crocodilian,” he adds. He also warns people that, just because Wally is friendly, they should not think of keeping an alligator as a pet.
He said, “He’s a very special gator, but I wouldn’t recommend that anyone get one. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you will get bit.”
The Emotional Support Animal has been with Joseph Since 2015
The pair got together in 2015 when a friend of Joseph asked him if he could take care of some gators rescued from a pond in Orlando. He took three alligators home but eventually sent two of them to New York and New Jersey, keeping Wally with him, who was 14 months old at the time.
“I bonded with him and was committed to caring for him,” said Joseph adding that Wally refused to eat rats and was happy to eat a bag of cheese popcorn. He revealed that his doctor wanted to put him on depression medication in 2019, after three of his friends died, but Wally helped him as an emotional support animal.
“My doctor wanted to put me on depression medicine, and I hate taking medicine. I had Wally, and when I came home and was around him, it was all OK. My doctor knew about Wally and figured it works, so why not?” he added.
Wally has Never Tried to Bite Anyone, Says Joseph
While alligators do not generally make for good pets, and keeping them is illegal in many states, Wally is different. Joseph says, “He has never tried to bite no one. I don’t push him on to people. I tell people to respect him, not fear him. He will not hurt you.”
Talking about the issues of keeping a gator as a pet, he said “One of the problems when someone gets an alligator for a pet is they don’t realize they’re in for a long haul. They breathe air and generally live in freshwater, but their skin does not need to stay wet for survival.”
“It isn’t common for people to want alligators as pets, though it does happen more than most people realize. When they get to three feet, nobody wants them. They can bite and they’re extremely hard to handle,” he added.
Isn’t Wally the most ‘adorable’ alligator you have ever seen? What do you think?