A distraught pet owner has taken his life a day after he found his service dog mauled to death by an alligator.
The tragic series of events began on May 18 when Andrew Epp from Florida in the US reportedly made the harrowing discovery that his chocolate Labrador had been attacked by an alligator.
A neighbour, Sharil Dowling, told Florida’s News Channel 8 she saw a man with the lifeless dog slumped over his shoulders, covered in blood, at Palmetto, Manatee County.
She said the pet must have somehow got loose from its owner while the pair were at Dog Leg Park, Buffalo Creek.
The dog named Java, was believed to be a service dog for Andrew Epp, 36, who suffered mental health issues, News Channel 8 reported.
His family and friends say Mr Epp became so distraught over his best mate’s death that he took his own life the next day, the news outlet reported.
"It was just such a sad situation, he couldn't deal with it," neighbour and family friend Kayla Weston told the news outlet.
The man’s sister-in-law, Ashley Epp, shared a Facebook post thanking friends and family for their support in the days that followed her son’s death.
“This tragedy has left us devastated,” she wrote.
Family plagued by mental health
Mr Epp’s family has been plagued by mental illness for years, according to a GoFund Me page set up to support the man’s mother.
Just six months ago Mr Epp’s father died “after a long battle with physical and mental health challenges,” according to the page.
Mr Epp’s older brother Paul died in March of 2005, after years of struggling with his mental health.
An alligator trapper has been dispatched to Dog Leg Park, a spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told local news outlet, but the predator is yet to be captured.
If you are concerned about the mental health of yourself or a loved one, seek support and information by calling Lifeline 13 11 14 Mensline 1300 789 978, the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467, or Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36.
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