When we think of emotional support animals, dogs and cats typically come to mind, but did you know that alligators (well, one alligator really) are used in that way, too?
Let's define what emotional support animals are: emotional support animals, or ESAs for short, are animals that provide comfort and support to the well-being of a person, typically helping people struggling with mental illness of sorts. Under the U.S. law, an emotional support animal is not a pet. While this type of service animal is usually dogs or cats, some people like to go a more, um, nontraditional way so to speak -- like an emotional support alligator, for example.
Yes, emotional support alligators are a thing! Crazy as it seems, but there are people who own pet alligators, so we guess an emotional support alligator is not too far out of the realm of possibilities, right? Take Wally for instance, a 5-foot-long emotional support alligator -- he even likes to snuggle!
Wally: The Emotional Support Alligator
Wally, a once-wild animal, is an emotional support alligator that belongs to Joie Henney, a man from York Haven, Pennsylvania. Wally, a registered emotional support animal, helps Henney with depression and, quite honestly, is redefining what an ESA can be.
Despite being a 5-foot-long alligator now, this gator is quite a good emotional support for Henney.
"I had Wally, and when I came home and was around him, it was all OK," the Pennsylvania man said to Associated Press.
The big teddy bear, in Henney's own words, even likes to snuggle and give hugs. The unlikely duo has even gotten the approval from Henney's doctor to use Wally as his emotional support animal after not wanting to go on medication for his depression, Henney told Philly.com.
Henney "adopted" Wally from outside Orlando, Florida when he was just 14 months old. Now at 5 years old, Wally is a domesticated animal just like your average dog or cat. The emotional support alligator likes eating chicken wings and chilling in his 300-gallon pond: an indoor plastic pond in the living room which he shares with his alligator brother, a smaller rescue alligator named Scrappy. He also loves to watch tv, and his favorite movie is Lion King.
When Wally isn't doing meet-and-greets at senior centers, schools, and minor-league baseball games, he can be found at home cuddling with Henney or rooting around the kitchen cupboards.
Wally is now world-famous, having been featured in multiple media outlets and social media sites.
I don't know about you, but honestly, I'd probably prefer getting a Golden Retriever or something for an ESA, but you do you Mr. Henney!
What do you think of an Emotional Support Alligator? Let us know on the Wide Open Pets Facebook page!