Service dog mauled to death by gator outside Florida dog park

National
java dog-846652698

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. 

“It was just such a sad situation, he couldn’t deal with it,” said neighbor and family friend Kayla Weston.

Friends and family have started a GoFundMe for Epp’s mother.  

A nuisance gator trapper has been dispatched to Dog Leg Park, according to a spokesperson for FWC. At last check, the gator had not been captured. 

The FWC says it places the highest priority on public safety and administers a Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP) to address complaints concerning specific alligators believed to pose a threat to people, pets or property. 

People with concerns about an alligator should call FWC’s Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286). 

When someone concerned about an alligator calls the Nuisance Alligator Hotline, FWC will dispatch a contracted nuisance alligator trapper to resolve the situation. 

TRENDING STORIES

Service dog mauled to death by gator outside Palmetto dog park

Tampa Bay serial killer Bobby Joe Long executed

Brothers found dead at bottom of Florida swimming pool

Disney World employee arrested for attempted child luring, found with condoms, child-sized dress

Florida governor signs ban on child-like sex dolls

62,000 pounds of raw meat recalled before Memorial Day 

Hurricane supplies you can buy tax-free during Florida sales tax holiday

2 Tampa eateries make list of 100 best restaurants in country 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Overcast

Abbeville

46°F Overcast Feels like 42°
Wind
8 mph E
Humidity
85%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Rain. Low near 50F. Winds ESE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a half an inch.
49°F Rain. Low near 50F. Winds ESE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a half an inch.
Wind
10 mph ESE
Precip
90%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waning Crescent
Overcast

Crowley

46°F Overcast Feels like 40°
Wind
13 mph E
Humidity
87%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Rain. Low 49F. Winds ESE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall around a half an inch.
49°F Rain. Low 49F. Winds ESE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall around a half an inch.
Wind
10 mph ESE
Precip
90%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waning Crescent
Overcast

Opelousas

43°F Overcast Feels like 43°
Wind
3 mph E
Humidity
88%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Periods of rain. Low 46F. Winds ESE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall around a half an inch.
49°F Periods of rain. Low 46F. Winds ESE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall around a half an inch.
Wind
10 mph ESE
Precip
90%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waning Crescent
Overcast

Breaux Bridge

46°F Overcast Feels like 44°
Wind
5 mph
Humidity
79%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Rain likely. Low 48F. Winds ESE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall around a half an inch.
49°F Rain likely. Low 48F. Winds ESE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall around a half an inch.
Wind
10 mph ESE
Precip
90%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waning Crescent
Overcast

New Iberia

47°F Overcast Feels like 42°
Wind
12 mph E
Humidity
90%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

A few clouds from time to time. Low 34F. Winds light and variable.
47°F A few clouds from time to time. Low 34F. Winds light and variable.
Wind
5 mph ESE
Precip
80%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waning Crescent

Local News

More Local

Sidebar

Trending Stories