Park goers who were cooling off in a fountain at Philadelphia’s Love Park on Friday were shocked when they had a close encounter with an alligator.
The reptile, which was being walked on a leash by a girl, seemed to be trying to beat the heat under the cooling spray from the fountain.
Wally the Alligator is the emotional support animal of Joie Henney, a Philadelphia man and longtime reptile rescuer who has worked with alligators for 30 years.
Video taken by passersby in the park over the weekend shows the alligator strolling on its leash, waving to people and, at one point, lying face down in a puddle to cool off.
Wally’s owner Henney, who was not far from his pet at the park that day, has several social media accounts documenting the life of his beloved alligator, with the help of his close friend Mary Johnson and her children.
“They just had a lot of fun,” Henney said. CNN. “People came as soon as they knew Wally was there to get a hug and take a picture with him.”
Joie Henney, a Philadelphia man and reptile rescuer who has worked with alligators for 30 years, was out for a walk with her pet alligator, Wally, in Philadelphia’s Love Park on Friday.
Wally the alligator is being walked on a leash by a girl in Philadelphia’s Love Park on Friday.
Wally’s appearance in the park on Friday shocked not only passersby but also social media users who later saw the video at WallyGator’s. tik tok which has racked up over 122,000 views.
Most people were in awe of the reptile, while others questioned the safety of the animal walking through the park.
Are you allowed to walk alligators in Philly? one user asked, to which the account replied that the police had given them the go-ahead to walk in the park.
“However, many skaters have been arrested there,” lamented another user.
One joked: “I would have bet anything this was in Florida.”
Many misled fans announced that they wanted to travel to Philly to see Wally in action.
‘Okay, now I’ll have to go to Phil just to see Wally!’ one exclaimed.
Wally entered Henney’s life seven years ago as a baby alligator when he was pulled from a Florida lagoon due to an overabundance of alligators and another alligator rescuer friend approached Henney for help.
“There was an overabundance of alligators in that area,” Henney said, further explaining that in Florida, so-called “nuisance alligators” must be euthanized or transferred into captivity.
The two have been inseparable ever since.
Henney registered her alligator, Wally, as an emotional support pet in December 2018. Henney compares Wally to a dog, saying the alligator just wants to be “loved and petted.”
Henney’s alligator rescuer friend in Florida asked if he wanted Wally in 2015. Henney, who ran a hunting and fishing TV show for a decade, said yes, he wanted an alligator.
“Wally has been quite unlike any gator I’ve dealt with in the last 30 years,” Henney said. ‘He shows no anger. He does not show aggressiveness. He hasn’t since the day he got caught. We could never understand why.
It is adorable. Sleep with me, steal my pillows, steal my blankets. It’s just amazing.
In 2019, Henney was able to get Wally licensed as an emotional support animal.
The alligator has brought him comfort as he undergoes radiation treatments for cancer.
Wally was just over a year old when he arrived at the Henney home in 2015.
Henney said he originally wanted to see if he could register Wally as a service animal after discovering its calming effect on people with developmental disabilities, but decided to register him as an emotional support animal instead.
“I went through a really bad slump and he pulled me out of it,” Henney said in an earlier interview about Wally. ‘My doctor wanted to give me anti-depression medicine and I refused to take it.’
So instead, Wally has been Henney’s medicine.
Henney claims that alligators are easier to train than dogs and is not worried about Wally biting someone.
“Wally is the only alligator I’ve ever been with that refuses to bite,” he said. “He’s amazing, just hard to believe.”
While emotional support pets may not get any special privileges under federal law, Wally is allowed to go almost anywhere with Henney, barring some restaurants that have refused Wally’s presence allegedly out of fear the alligator could carry salmonella.
The couple made headlines a year ago and have continued to shoot content for Wally’s. tik tok and Instagram, along with the help of family friends.
Henney’s videos on social media have amassed around 3.7 billion views and Wally currently leads the America’s Favorite Kingdom of Pets, a contest that supports the rescue and rehabilitation of animals. The winner of the contest will get $10,000.
Henney, who is still battling cancer, also has a GoFundMe Page to help cover the cost of caring for Wally and other reptiles in need.
Henney said Wally likes to have the top of his head rubbed, just like a dog.
Henney takes Wally to schools and senior centers for educational purposes. Wally is seen here at Pennsylvania’s SpiriTrust Lutheran Village on January 14, 2019
Wally is very happy to be held the way you would a traditional pet. Henney said that Wally has never bitten him or tried to bite anyone else.
Wildlife experts have pushed for new laws that would ban alligators from being kept as pets, as they are often abandoned when they grow too large for their owners to care for.
Henney previously said that he made sure to emphasize in his alligator educational presentations that alligators do not make good pets because they are still wild animals.
But he adds that he hopes Wally’s story can help encourage people to “be nice to other people” and hopes it can “put a smile on people’s faces — this world is tough enough.”