Florida man struggling with mental illness kills himself a day after his service dog was mauled to death by alligator

36-year-old Andrew Epp took the drastic step of ending his life after his service dog, a chocolate-colored lab by the name of Java, was killed by the reptile while he was taking him for a walk at Dog Leg Park in Buffalo Creek last Friday


                            Florida man struggling with mental illness kills himself a day after his service dog was mauled to death by alligator

A Florida man suffering from mental health problems killed himself less than 24 hours after his beloved service dog was mauled to death by an alligator.

According to The Epoch Times, 36-year-old Andrew Epp took the drastic step of ending his life after his service dog, a chocolate-colored lab by the name of Java, was killed by the reptile while he was taking him for a walk at Dog Leg Park in Buffalo Creek last Friday, May 17.

The incident unfolded after Java was reportedly outside the fenced area of the park after breaking loose from his leash. He is said to have subsequently run towards a marshy area nearby where he got into a tussle with an alligator that left him fatally injured.

A witness who was at the park that day said she saw Java "covered in blood" and "slumped over" Epp's shoulder shortly after. Local residents said the park would not be frequented so often if people were aware it was located so close to a marsh and gators, and that at least three dogs had been eaten by the reptiles in just the past five years.

Not 24 hours had passed since the dog's passing and news broke through that Epp had taken his life as well.

In a GoFundMe campaign, his family said that, the night before his suicide, they were "begging" facilities to admit him, but that they were turned away repeatedly because the 36-year-old was not vocalizing his intent to hurt himself.

They also revealed that this was not the first incident of grief and heartbreak that they will have to live through.

Andrew's older sister died of a brain tumor, according to the page, with his older brother, similar to Epp, taking his life after years of struggling with mental illness.

Then, just last December, his father passed away after a "long battle with physical and mental health challenges."

They also took time to pay tribute to the 36-year-old's life, describing him as a "gentle, beautiful soul" who "loved the outdoors, fishing, camping, horticulture, and animals."

While the alligator that killed Java has not yet been caught despite a nuisance gator trapper being sent into the park, campaigning by concerned residents has ensured that the county installed snake and alligator warning signs around the area this week. 

The GoFundMe page has already surpassed its goal of $5,000 and raised $6,019 in just two days. The family promised to donate any excess funds to mental health charities to "help fix this broken system."

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