Friday, May 24, 2019

Service dog killed by gator, owner committed suicide next day

Service dog mauled to death by gator outside Palmetto dog park

By: Victoria Price
May 24, 2019

PALMETTO, Fla. (WFLA) - PALMETTO, Fla. (WFLA) - Pet owners in Manatee County are sounding the alarm after a gator mauled and killed a man's service dog at Dog Leg Park at Buffalo Creek.

The attack happened Friday shortly before dusk. Sharil Dowling and other witnesses say the chocolate lab somehow got loose while outside the fence with its owner.

Next thing Dowling knew, the lifeless dog was slumped over a man's shoulders, covered in blood.

Dowling described the scene as horrifying but had previous feared such an attack was an accident waiting to happen.

"Most people, if they knew they were that close to marsh and gators, they wouldn't walk back there," she said. "I can't imagine the anguish that guy was in."

A line of trees just outside the dog park obscures wetlands, and both Dowling and other pet owners who frequent the dog park fear not enough people are aware of the dangers hidden away.

In the five years Tim Todd has come to Dog Leg Park, he knows of at least three dogs eaten by alligators. After Friday, he reached out to the county, demanding it put up warning signs.

"It was too late to do anything for that dog, but what could we do to help other people?" Todd asked.

Snake and gator warning signs were installed earlier this week.

News Channel 8 has learned the dog killed Friday, Java, was a service dog for Andrew Epp, a local man who suffered mental health issues. Epp was so distraught, according to family and friends, that he took his own life the very next day.
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