(UPI) A Pennsylvania man was unable to attend the game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Pittsburgh Pirates when stadium security turned away his emotional support animal: an alligator.
Joie Henney, a former hunting and fishing TV host who appeared on networks including ESPN Outdoors, has had Wally the gator for about seven years, and he had the unusually gentle reptile licensed as an emotional support animal while he was undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
Henney said Wally's visits to schools, hospitals and assisted living facilities caught the attention of the Phillies, who invited him to bring his pet to meet members of the team and their partners before Wednesday's game.
Henney said he and Wally arrived at the stadium too late for the meet-up, as the players were already warming up on the field.
"So we bought tickets and Wally has been into other baseball games, so we assumed that it was OK," Henney told CNN. We never asked or checked with it, but they only allow service animals, such as dogs and horses, into the stadium, not ESA animals.
Henney said he was disappointed, but he understood being turned away by security at Citizens Bank Park.
"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 said. They've got their rules and we've got to go by their rules. I can't go there and make my rules.
The rules for Citizens Bank Park state: "Certified service dogs or service dogs in training for guests with special needs are welcome. All other animals are prohibited."
Henney said he is hoping to schedule another meet-up with team members in the future.
The exotic pet owner and longtime reptile rescuer said Wally has always had a very mild temperament.
"Wally has been quite different than any alligator I've ever dealt with in the past 30 years," he said. He doesn't show anger. He doesn't show aggression. He hasn't since the day he was caught. We never could understand why.
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