Appearance: 1.66m, 32kg, razor-toothed reptile.
Occupation: Emotional support alligator.
Come again? He has all the paperwork.
What do you mean, paperwork? Wally’s owner, Joseph Henney of York, Pennsylvania, has a letter from his doctor stating that the alligator’s companionship is necessary to Henney’s mental wellbeing.
Why doesn’t he just get a cat if he wants company? I wouldn’t want a cat in the same house as Wally.
Does Wally live in the house? Wally and Henney sleep in the same bed and watch TV together on the couch.
I suppose what you do at home is your own business. Henney also goes shopping with WallyGator. Wally also made news last week when he was seen cavorting in the fountains of Love Park in Philadelphia, with visitors stopping to hug him.
Is that legal? It is. WallyGator has been an emotional support animal (ESA) since 2018.
What’s the big deal? The distinction has some legal weight in the United States. A pet-hating landlord, for example, cannot forbid an ESA from residing in university housing. ESAs have included cats, dogs, hamsters, goats, and even peacocks.
Can ESAs go by plane? That was the case previously, but the law was recently toughened. ESAs are not service animals because they are not trained to assist people with impairments, and unscrupulous internet “ESA mills” have sprung up, offering questionable psychological assessments and official-looking collar tags, resulting in an epidemic of phony ESAs.
What about the United Kingdom? You can receive a note from your doctor to show the Starbucks workers, but the legislation does not recognize ESAs.
But can you take your alligator to Starbucks in the United States? No, not always. In many states, owning an alligator is prohibited in the first place. But not in Pennsylvania.
What happens if your alligator of emotional support bites someone? Nobody has ever been bitten by WallyGator. “He’s really sweet-natured,” Henney says.
Is it fair to argue that Wally is an exception to the general rule of not sleeping with alligators? Yes, Henney would concur. “He’s a pretty special gator,” he says, “but I wouldn’t recommend anyone getting one.” “You’ll get bit if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
What happens next for WallyGator? Henney intends to enter him in the annual America’s Favorite Pet competition. Meanwhile, Wally will grow taller and heavier and live for about 80 years.
“Every day I wake up uneaten, that’s a good day,” you can say.
“Is this your alligator bag in the overhead locker?” don’t say.