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Video Shows Emotional Support Alligator in Philadelphia Park. "He Sleeps With Me, Steals My Pillows, Steals My Blankets."

Wally doesn’t bite—ever.

Alligators aren't exactly known for their sweet, cuddly dispositions, but one reptile is subverting expectations for alligator behavior. Wally is an emotional support alligator saved from euthanasia by Joie Henney, a long time alligator expert. And the gator made headlines with a recent trip to a Philadelphia park. "Of course, there were a ton of people around taking pictures…. People were picking up the alligator, petting it, all sorts of stuff," said one spectator. The video soon went viral. Read on to learn more about Wally's traumatic past and how he became famous.

Rescued As a Baby


Wally was rescued by Henney and brought to Pennsylvania after being marked for euthanasia due to Florida's laws on "nuisance alligators," where the reptiles are either put down or transferred into captivity. "There was an overabundance of gators in that area," Henney told CNN. Wally was just a baby alligator when Henney rescued him, measuring 20 inches in length. 

Strange Bedfellows

bedsheets and pillows on bed
New Africa / Shutterstock

According to Henney, Wally sleeps in his bed. "Wally has been quite different than any alligator I've ever dealt with in the past 30 years," Henney says. "He doesn't show anger. He doesn't show aggression. He hasn't since the day he was caught. We never could understand why. He's just lovable. He sleeps with me, steals my pillows, steals my blankets. He's just awesome."

Predator Or Pet?


Henney knows people might be concerned about the alligator possibly attacking him, and insists Wally displays no aggressive traits whatsoever. According to Henney, Wally has never even attempted to bite him or anyone else. "Wally is the only gator I've ever been around that refuses to bite. It's mind-boggling — just hard to believe," Henney says.

A Trip To the Park

Halle Sivalingam/AMAZING ANIMALS+ /TMX

Wally caused a sensation when Henney took him on a trip to Philadelphia to film a news segment, and they visited Love Park (with Wally on a leash). They were accompanied by Henney's friend Mary Johnson and her children—Johnson is usually the one behind the camera, filming content for Wally's social media accounts. "They just had a blast," said Henney. "People came as soon as they heard Wally was there to get a hug and get a photo with him." Henney hopes Wally can help "put a smile on people's faces — this world is rough enough."

Should Alligators Be Pets?


In case you're wondering if alligators make good pets, the answer from most experts is a resounding "no." "It's not like owning a cat or dog that will return love," says Russ Johnson, president of the Phoenix Herpetological Society. "You're basically dealing with a dinosaur." "Alligators are unpredictable," says Wild Florida co-owner and operator Sam Haught. "While many people think alligators are aggressive hunters, they're actually just lurkers. This means they lurk around waiting for something tasty to come by. Alligators will eat almost anything: fish, turtles, small mammals, or birds… and even some larger mammals like deer. They also don't need to eat on a regular schedule the way people do. When you combine all of these factors, you can see how unpredictable (read as: unsafe) a gator would be as a pet."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more
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