Emotional help crocodile attracts crowds at Philadelphia’s Love Park

But the reptile isn’t a beast: It’s the emotional support animal of a Philadelphia man who runs several social media accounts documenting his love affair with Wally the crocodile.

Several park visitors, as well as Wally’s owner, Joie Henney, posted pictures and videos of a friendly alligator on a leash, greeting visitors and wandering in the water sprayed by the fountain.

Henney told CNN that he acquired Wally six years ago. A longtime reptile rescuer who has worked with crocodiles for 30 years, Henney was contacted by a friend who works in Florida.

“There are a lot of alligators in the area,” Henney said.

In Florida, so-called “nuisance crocodiles” must be euthanized or moved into captivity, he explained.

A crocodile was euthanized after being found with a knife to his head

Wally was moved from a lagoon in Florida, Henney said. A friend brought the baby gator, who is only 20 inches long and just over a year old, to Pennsylvania.

Thus began the unique relationship between humans and crocodiles.

“Wally is very different from any crocodile I’ve worked with in the last 30 years,” Henney said. “He didn’t show any anger. He showed no aggression. He had not shown any anger since the day he was arrested. We can never understand why.

“He’s lovely. He sleeps with me, steals my pillow, steals my blanket. He’s amazing.”

Wally’s easygoing personality earned Henney a crocodile license as an emotional support animal, he said. Crocodile has brought comfort to him as he has undergone radiation treatment for cancer.

Most people who saw Wally were “very happy and excited to see him,” Henney said.

Henney is not worried about the possibility of a crocodile biting someone, he said. “Wally is the only alligator I’ve ever come close to that refuses to bite,” he said. “It’s confusing — hard to believe.”

Their visit to Love Park came after the odd couple visited Philadelphia to shoot a news segment, accompanied by close friend Mary Johnson and her children, Henney said. Johnson helps with film content for TikTok and Instagram Wally, and his family are “very special to me,” added Henney.

“They just had a great time,” said Henney. “People came as soon as they heard Wally was there to hug and take pictures with him.”

Henney hopes Wally’s story can help encourage people to “be kind to others.” He’s proud that Wally can help “put a smile on people’s faces — the world is pretty tough.”

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