WallyGator, an alligator from Pennsylvania, is currently in the lead to win a new competition, America’s Favorite Pet Animal Kingdom.
Would hugging an alligator help you feel less stressed? A hug from WallyGator might – the seven-year-old alligator is a federally licensed emotional support animal, and he’s up for public vote in the new contest.
Developed from the world’s biggest online pet competition, America’s Favorite Pet, which began in 2020, the new Animal Kingdom contest will see contestants of all shapes, species and sizes battle it out.
The winner will receive $10,000 and a write up in celebrity gossip magazine In Touch. The contest benefits the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS.org), a nonprofit shelter and rehabilitation organization.
While WallyGator is certainly one of the more unusual contestants, he isn’t the only reptile. Other competitors include bearded dragons, a spider python and even a tarantula (OK, not a reptile!)
Joie Henney, Wally’s owner, runs Wally and Friends Reptile Rescue and posts Wally’s exploits on his TikTok account, @WallyTheAlligator.
The rakish reptile has over 68,000 followers and videos show him walking on a leash, lying with his owner on a couch for chin rubs and swimming. Wally was originally a rescue, and Joie got him after suffering a bout of depression.
He said, “He puts so much joy in my life, he just makes everything his friend. I take him everywhere, he’s my best buddy.” Joie and Wally attend events together and Joie says his unusual pet has helped thousands of people.
“Wally has never showed any aggression or tried to bite anyone,” says Joie. “He’s the only one in the world for me.”
You can vote daily for free on Wally’s competition page and you can also pay to cast additional votes, which will benefit PAWS.org. Voting is open now and will close on September 1 at 7pm PDT, according to the live countdown on the America’s Favorite Pet website.
On the official competition page, which shows a photo of Wally in sunglasses, Joie says that his pet’s favorite treats are Cheese Puff Corn and raw chicken.
“He’s an amazing creature who senses people’s emotions and gives hugs to try to cheer people up. He has been a huge support for me during my battle with cancer and has brought cheer to other patients and the doctors and nurses.”
Good luck, Wally – we hope it will be a case of ‘see you later, alligator!’
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Sara is a freelance journalist and copywriter of many years’ experience with a lifelong love of animals. She’s written for a range of magazines and websites on subjects varying from pet care to travel. A horse rider since the age of five, she’s currently a full time pet slave to horse Blue and gorgeous, goofy English Springer Spaniel Olly. Adorable Olly has a huge sense of adventure and no sense of direction, keeping Sara on her toes.