How Wally the emotional support alligator helps his owner cope with depression

Emotional support animals are being used more and more to cope with medical conditions, but one man’s choice of partners has raised a few eyebrows.

There have been tales of support dogs, rabbits and even peacocks, but what about Wally the emotional support alligator?

Joie Henney, 65, said his registered support alligator is an important companion who likes to snuggle and give hugs.

The man from York Haven, in the US State of Pennsylvania, said he received approval from his doctor to use the 1.5 metre alligator as his emotional support animal after not wanting to go on medication for depression, he told Philly.com .

“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?”

Joie Henney lifts his emotional support animal, Wally, up on a table during a presentation. Source: Ty Lohr/York Daily Record via AAP

Support alligator could grow to five metres long

Wally was rescued from outside Orlando at 14-months-old and is still growing; Henney said Wally could be nearly five metres long one day.

Henney says Wally eats chicken wings and shares an indoor plastic pond with a smaller rescue alligator named Scrappy.

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 four-year-old emotional support alligator, soaks up the sun while his Pennsylvania owner, Joie Henney, rubs his head. Source: Ty Lohr/York Daily Record via AAP

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 also indicates a 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.

“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.”

Henney says he received approval from his doctor to use Wally as his emotional support animal after not wanting to go on medication for depression. Source: Ty Lohr/York Daily Record via AAP