Emotional support alligator visits senior living facility

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It's not uncommon for emotional support animals to visit senior living facilities -- but those animals usually aren't alligators.

Joie Henney's alligator, named Wally, is 3 years old and about 4½ feet long. The unorthodox pet quickly turned heads on Monday as he walked on a leash through the SpiriTrust Lutheran® Village at Sprenkle Drive in York, Pennsylvania.

While some were understandably apprehensive about approaching a large reptile with razor-sharp teeth, Henney tried to put them at ease, encouraging residents to interact with Wally.

“He’s just like a dog,” Henney told one woman. “He wants to be loved and petted.” 

According to the York Daily Record, Wally was rescued from Florida where a congregation of gators were set to be destroyed to make room for a development.

When Henney took Wally home to Pennsylvania, the young gator was just 14 months old and about 1½ feet long.

At first, he said Wally was afraid of everything. But soon, the alligator started to become relatively domesticated.

“He was a like a little puppy dog,” Henney said. “He would follow us around the house.” 

Henney, a former television host who had his own hunting and fishing show, started bringing Wally to schools and senior centers to educate people about alligators. That's when he noticed the gator appeared to have a calming presence, so he decided to have Wally registered as an emotional support animal.

Henney built a 300-gallon pond in his living room for Wally and his other gator, a 2-year-old named Scrappy. He said Wally enjoys watching TV, and said his favorite movie is "The Lion King."

Though Wally has never tried to bite anyone, Henney warned that he's still a wild animal.

“They aren’t for everyone,” Henney told the York Daily Record. “But what can I say, I’m not normal.”

FOX 13 reported this story from Tampa. Photos courtesy: SpiriTrust Lutheran®