PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) —Emotional support animals, like dogs and cats, are very common these days. This one is not so common.

Meet Bubba, the 27-year-old, 7-foot, 200-pound emotional support alligator.

Bubba made new friends today at the Gulf Coast School for Autism.

This is the 8th year Bubba has visited the school.

The kids get to learn alligator facts and give the gator a big scaly hug.

Autistic individuals can struggle with sensory issues, so the hands-on learning gives them a chance to experience the gator’s different body textures.

“A lot of kids in general don’t know the dangers that animals can bring. So them getting to learn about the animals and experience them hands-on, but in a safe way where they can learn the safety and what these animals are capable of is a really good opportunity for them,” said Assistant Director of Gulf Coast School for autism Kuryn Wheeler.

Zoologist David Dawe does this kind of opportunity year-round.

He says it’s a miracle Bubba is so well-mannered, lying on his “work table”, patiently letting the kids pet him.