Man With 5-Foot ‘Emotional Support Alligator’ Says The Reptile Helped Him Beat Depression

Alligator in Everglades Park in Florida
Sorbis / Shutterstock

Many people have furry friends they share their homes with. Dogs, cats, bunnies, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, or birds are the usual suspects when it comes to animals in the home, but every now and then someone has a pet that is just a little out of the box. One man found a pet that is rather exotic.

Joie Henney, 65, has a pet alligator. Yup, you read that right. A 5-foot long pet alligator by the name of Wally whom he walks on a leash, much like most of us do with our dogs. According to the York Dispatch, Wally isn’t just an ordinary pet either. He is actually Henney’s emotional support animal.

Henney and Wally live in York County, Pennsylvania, in the town of Strinestown where Henney grew up on a farm.

Wally is also not the only unusual pet sharing Henney’s home with him. The man has a love of reptiles, a class of animals most people are creeped out by, and has owned a myriad of poisonous snakes over the course of his life as well.

Henney was first introduced to Wally in September 2016, when a friend who was rescuing alligators from Walt Disney World asked him if he would like to take one of the rescued animals.

It took some getting used to for Wally to be comfortable living in captivity. Henney had a rather strange reaction to the alligator’s apparently aggressive outbursts. While most would run scared and quickly get rid of the animal, he would just pick the gator up and cuddle him.

At the time he was rescued, Wally was only about 14-months-old, and measured just 20 inches. He has grown somewhat since then. Henney has grown incredibly close with his unusual pet in the past two years, and realized just how much help the alligator was to him on an emotional level when a number of his close friends passed away.

“The longer I’ve had him, he just grew close to me,” Henney said. “He took care of the problem. So we got him registered as an emotional support [alligator]. We got a letter from the doctor stating that it worked.”

It took just a month-long training program before the gator was fully registered as Henney’s emotional support animal. Wally lives quite happily in Henney’s living room, but not to worry, he’s never alone. There to keep him company at all times is Scrappy, another alligator Henney rescued.

Henney takes Wally with him on plenty of public outings, even allowing him to interact with other people. According to the man, Wally is great with children who live with disabilities as well.

“He does well with me, but I guess now where I get a lot of my support from him is seeing what he does for other people,” Henney said.