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Man Takes His Own Life After His Service Dog Is Killed By Alligator

Ash Epp/Go Fund Me

*The following article contains discussion of suicide.

If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Family and friends are distraught after a Florida man committed suicide after the death of his service dog.

Andrew Epp and his service dog, Java, were at Dog Leg Park in Palmetto, Florida. Java, a labrador, was attacked and killed by an alligator.

Kayla Weston, a friend and neighbor of Epp, said:

“It was just such a sad situation, he couldn’t deal with it.”

The attack happened on May 17 just shortly before dusk. Java got loose while outside a fence and moments later a witness saw Epp carrying the lifeless dog over his shoulder.

Sharil Downing 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.”

The dog park is near wetlands, which are obscured by a line of trees. This could potentially put visitors and animals at risk of attacks by snakes or alligators.

One frequent visitor knows of at last three dogs eaten by alligators in the last five years. There have been demands for warning signs to be put up.

Tim Todd said:

“It was too late to do anything for that dog, but what could we do to help other people?” 

Officials from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation dispatched a nuisance alligator trapper shortly after the attack. No gator has been caught yet.

When the news hit social media, support from all over came out.


Meanwhile, friends and family remember Epp as a beautiful soul who loved animals and spending time outside. Relatives had tried to get a local mental health facility to admit Epp after Java’s death but were turned away.

The family was told he was not threatening to harm himself so they wouldn’t admit him. They were also informed he would need to wait until August before he could see a doctor.

Ashley Epp, his sister in law, wrote:

“The thing is, often those considering suicide don’t vocalize their plans. And they can be turned away in the moments that help is most needed.”

A GoFundMe has been set up for the family to help with the expenses of Andrew’s funeral and to help move his mother closer to her other children. You can access the GoFundMe page for Andrew Epp here.

Not all of the responses to the story were about the death of Andrew Epp and Java though. People recognized a chance for the media to open a conversation about mental health and the overburdened or overpriced system that seems to fail so many.

If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


Written by Christine Akridge

Nerd. Aspiring author and artist. Fan of all things true crime and horror. She would rather spend her days reading, writing, or painting over anything else, except gaming with her husband and son.