Pennsylvania man says emotional support alligator helps his depression

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‘He likes to give hugs’ Man says emotional support alligator helps his depression
WATCH: 'He likes to give hugs' Man says emotional support alligator helps his depression – Jan 28, 2019

YORK HAVEN — A Pennsylvania man says his emotional support alligator helps him deal with his depression.

Joie Henney, 65, said his registered emotional support animal named Wally likes to snuggle and give hugs, despite being a five-foot-long alligator. The York Haven man said he received approval from his doctor to use Wally as his emotional support animal after not wanting to go on medication for depression, he told

“I had Wally, and when I came home and was around him, it was all OK,” he said. “My doctor knew about Wally and figured it works, so why not?”

In this Jan. 14, 2019, photo Wally, a four-year-old emotional support alligator, soaks up the sun while his owner, Joie Henney, rubs his head at the SpiriTrust Lutheran Village in York Haven, Pa. (Ty Lohr/York Daily Record via AP). Ty Lohr/AP

Wally was rescued from outside Orlando at 14 months old and is still growing; Henney said Wally could be 16 feet long one day. Henney says Wally eats chicken wings and shares an indoor plastic pond with a smaller rescue alligator named Scrappy.

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Wally, who turns four this year, is a big teddy bear, in Henney’s words. The cold-blooded reptile likes to rest his snout on Henney’s, and “he likes to give hugs,” he said.

The alligator has never bitten anyone and is even afraid of cats, according to Henney.

Henney acknowledged that Wally is still a dangerous wild animal and could probably tear his arm off, but says he’s never been afraid of him.

Henney’s background explains his personal comfort with creatures like Wally. He hosted a show called Joie Henney’s Outdoors on ESPN Outdoors from 1989 to 2000, according to the York Daily Record.

Henney frequently takes Wally out for meet-and-greets at places like senior centres and minor-league baseball games.

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“He’s just like a dog,” Henney told a woman at a recent outing to a senior centre. “He wants to be loved and petted.”

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