The Nice Guide to Right Now

Check Out This Dude's 'Emotional Support Gator'

He loves chicken wings, head rubs, and watching 'Gator Boys' on TV.
January 25, 2019, 11:05pm
Wally the emotional support alligator
Photo by Heather Khalifa/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

Joie Henney didn't want to take medication for his depression, so he did what he considered the next best thing—register his five-foot pet alligator, Wally, as an emotional support animal. After noticing that his mood lifted whenever the 60-pound animal was around, he got a doctor's permission to bring him outside on a leash, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The 65-year-old, who lives about 100 miles west of Philadelphia, adopted Wally from Orlando, and came to increasingly rely on him for companionship after losing three close friends in quick succession. Wally spends his time in Henney's living room watching shows like Gator Boys on TV, eating chicken wings, and enjoying the occasional head-rub. When he's not wading in a 300-pound plastic pond, he's cuddling with his owner. Henney, who also owns a smaller gator named Scrappy, told the Inquirer that he's even let Wally sleep with him in his bed.


"We caress and wrestle. He loves to wrestle,” he said. "He whacks me with his tail."

Henney is an animal lover who grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania, has nursed injured owls and ridden in rodeos. Raising a gator that might grow to be well over 1,000 pounds presumably presents a unique set of challenges, but he swears Wally is just a big sweetheart. He apparently "likes to give hugs," and befriends goldfish and bullfrogs rather than eat them. He's also afraid of cats.

Though Wally does meet-and-greets and is reportedly good with most of Henney's 18 grandkids, along with his initially skeptical girlfriend, not everyone is fully convinced that having an emotional support alligator is a great idea. The Inquirer reporter, who did say that the gator genuinely seemed to cuddle with Henney, wrote that he got a little riled whenever he put on his leash. And— even in a world where people are registering emotional support peacocks—the Service Dog Registration of America seemed to think that domesticating what's basically a dinosaur is taking things a step too far.

"Our therapist would never approve a client to have an alligator as an emotional support animal," a rep for the organization told the paper.

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.