A devastated man took his own life one day after his service dog was mauled to death by an alligator in Florida.
Andrew Epp, 36, was walking his dog Java at the Dog Leg Park in Palmetto last Friday (May 17), when the chocolate Labrador got loose from his lead.
The service dog reportedly ran towards a nearby marshy area of the land, where he was attacked by the viscous reptile.
Andrew, who suffered from mental health problems, was later spotted carrying a slumped, bloody Java over his shoulder.
A woman named Sharil Dowling witnessed the scene, and told WFLA:
Most people, if they knew they were that close to marsh and gators, they wouldn’t walk back there.
I can’t imagine the anguish that guy was in. It was horrible.
Less than 24 hours later, Andrew was found dead, having taken his own life. He is being remembered on a GoFundMe page as a ‘gentle, beautiful soul’, who ‘loved the outdoors, fishing, camping, horticulture and animals.’
The page explains that on the day Java was killed, Andrew’s family were ‘begging local facilities to admit him’ for treatment.
However, they were reportedly turned away because ‘he wasn’t vocalizing that he wanted to hurt himself’. The page adds that the earliest he could have even seen a doctor would have been in August.
Speaking to WFLA, neighbor and family friend Kayla Weston said:
It was just such a sad situation, he couldn’t deal with it.
— Manfred Rosenberg (@4PawShop) May 24, 2019
Tim Todd, a frequent visitor to the Dog Leg Park, explained that he knows of at least three dogs eaten by alligators in the area in the past five years.
Following last week’s awful events, Todd reached out to the county, demanding that warning signs be put up around the area to raise awareness of the lurking alligators.
It was too late to do anything for that dog, but what could we do to help other people?
Snake and alligator warning signs have since been put around the area, and a gator trapper was sent to try and capture the reptile. However, it has not yet been caught.
This tragic story makes it clear that mental health issues should not be taken lightly, especially when combined with the horrific events Andrew experienced with his beloved dog.
Our thoughts are with Andrew’s family and friends; may he rest in peace.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58, and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.
Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.