Weekly ESA News Report January 28th: Man Claims to Have Emotional Support … Alligator?

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mans emotional support alligator in waterThis week, a man states that an unlikely reptile is assisting his mental health. But is it a case of taking emotional support animals (ESAs) too far? Read on to find out what’s new in the world of ESAs!

Someone Claims to Have an Emotional Support Alligator?

We’ve heard of all sorts of exotic ESAs over the past few years, but this may be the most extreme case yet.

A Pennsylvania man who keeps a 4 foot 6 alligator as a pet says that the wild reptile provides him with emotional comfort. Joie Henney of York Haven rescued the alligator, now named Wally, from outside Orlando when he was around 14 months old. Wally, who is turning 4 years old this year, is still growing, with his owner saying that he could reach up to 16 feet long and weigh between 900 to 1,100 pounds when fully grown.

Henney says that Wally is more akin to a puppy dog than an alligator, stating “He’s just like a dog…He wants to be loved and petted.”

Within a few days of each other, three of Henney’s closet friends passed away. Intense grief brought on a bout of depression, and when he presented to his doctor, the recommendation was to begin anti-depressants. However, Henney didn’t like the idea of being medicated, so instead, Henney’s doctor approved the idea of using Wally as an emotional support animal.

“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?”

The Pennsylvania native fully understands the potential dangers that are inherent in living with not one, but two alligators (he also cares for another rescue alligator named Scrappy). However, he has experience around dangerous reptiles, having kept snakes as pets before, and also hosting an outdoors show on ESPN between 1989 – 2000.

Henney also states that he regularly takes Wally as an educational animal to senior citizen centers and schools. He has noticed that Wally has particularly uncanny ability to connect with children suffering from developmental issues.

“He has never tried to bite no one,” Henney said. “I don’t push him on to people. I tell people to respect him, not fear him. He will not hurt you.”

And Henney’s view on his own use of Wally as an ESA?

“You know, whatever works for you,” Henney said. “Dogs and cats don’t work for me.”

alligator in pennslyvania water

CertaPet’s View on Alligators as ESAs

While Certapet doesn’t support the use of exotic animals as ESAs (our LMHPs will not prescribe you one), it is true that different animals are suited to different individuals depending on their needs and lifestyles. By that, we mean that it makes sense to work out which domestic animal would suit your lifestyle before obtaining an emotional support animalrather than straight-up adopting an alligator!

You cannot go wrong with a dog or cat as an ESA!

If you are struggling with depression or another mental illness and think treatment with an emotional support animal could help you, you’ll be happy to know that CertaPet has made the process of getting an ESA letter quick and simple.

Simply start by taking our free online 5-minute pre-screening, and if your answers indicate that you may qualify for an ESA (a cat or dog), we will connect you with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) and you could have your ESA letter in as little as 48 hrs!

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