MANATEE COUNTY - One horrific tragedy led to another recently when a gator killed a service dog in Dog Leg Park at Buffalo Creek.

Witnesses say the chocolate lab got loose from its owner last Friday, and then was mauled by the alligator.

Java, the dog killed Friday, 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.

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

There have been reports of at least three dogs eaten by alligators in the area, so residents reached out to the county, demanding it put up warning signs.

Snake and gator warning signs were installed earlier this week.

People with concerns about an alligator should call FWC's Nuisance Alligator Hotline.