He claimed the five-foot alligator named Wally helped him cope with his depression.
A baseball fan in the US was denied entry to a Philadelphia Phillies MLB game on September 27 when he tried to enter the stadium with his ''emotional support alligator'', BBC reported. The fan, identified as Joie Henney, arrived at Citizens Bank Park walking the alligator on a leash and was barred from entering the stadium. He claimed the five-foot alligator named Wally helped him cope with his depression.
''So we bought tickets and Wally has been into other baseball games, so we assumed that it was OK. We never asked or checked with it, but they only allow service animals, such as dogs and horses, into the stadium, not ESA animals,'' Mr Henney told CNN.
''Wally is an emotional support animal, not a service animal. People criticized me because they didn't know the story behind everything … but when they came and told us, there was no disagreement, there was no arguing, there was no conflict at all. It was all good,'' he added.
Several videos of Mr. Henney along with the alligator outside the stadium have surfaced.
Watch the videos here:
Mr Henney adopted Wally in 2015 when the alligator was around a year old. He said he was informed about the reptile by his friend who rescued alligators in Florida. He told The Washington Post in August 2022 that he hugs the alligator often, and that they sleep in the same bed.
''Wally has been quite different than any alligator I've ever dealt with in the past 30 years. 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 loveable. He sleeps with me, steals my pillows, steals my blankets. He's just awesome,'' Mr Henney said.
Notably, the animal even has a large social media following and walks around in public on its customized leash.
Mr Henney earlier told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Wally helps him battle depression and that “he likes to give hugs.”
''I've never met an alligator that will not bite you. You fool around the head like this (Joe puts his hand in Wally's mouth), their instinct is to grab you [with their teeth] - but he does not do it,'' Mr Henney told CBS Evening News last year.
The stadium's policy on support animals on the Phillies official website states, "Certified service dogs or service dogs in training for guests with special needs are welcome. All other animals are prohibited."
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