The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Florida Landscaper Runs Tractor Over Duck and Ducklings, as a Family Watched: Arrested and Charged with Nine Counts of Animal Cruelty

Friday, May 15, 2015

Florida Landscaper Runs Tractor Over Duck and Ducklings, as a Family Watched: Arrested and Charged with Nine Counts of Animal Cruelty

Laura Gontchar loved the family of 11 Muscovy ducklings and their mother that lived near her home in Wellington, Fla. After the ducklings hatched, Gontchar and her family would leave food out for them and watch as the ducks ventured out of their lake to eat.

That’s exactly what Gontchar; her husband, Boyd Jentzsch; and their 7-year-old son, Kai, were doing on May 2, they said. That is, until Jason Falbo, a landscaper working his way through the yard on a riding lawnmower, started heading straight for the family of ducklings.

Gontchar told the Palm Beach Post that she ran outside to flag Falbo down as he approached the ducklings. Her son followed her, she said. “He was yelling, ‘Stop, stop! Ducks! Stop!’”

But according to the family, Falbo plowed right into the family of ducklings, then backed up his lawnmower to run them over again. All but two of the ducklings were killed; seven were killed in the lawnmower’s blades and two others drowned as what remained of the family escaped back to the safety of the lake.

On Wednesday, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office arrested and charged Falbo with nine counts of animal cruelty, according to the office’s inmate records. He’s being held on a $27,000 bond.

Jentzsch told the Sun Sentinel that Falbo was smiling as he made his second pass over the family of ducks:

“What are you doing to my ducks?” Kai wailed, his father remembers. “Why are you laughing?”

The boy, in tears, ran from the backyard and back into his house. Jentzsch and his wife were stunned.

“It was one of the most emotional things I’ve ever seen,” Jentzsch said. “It was just — wow.”

Falbo was confronted by Gontchar and Jentzsch. He said he was unable to see the ducklings as he mowed their lawn. But the family didn’t believe him. After he left their property, Jentzsch called authorities. Animal Care and Control found their remains by the lake, the Sun Sentinel reported.

Falbo’s boss, Wayne Soini, told the Palm Beach Post that the lawn’s grass was too high for Falbo to see the small ducklings and that he believed the whole ordeal was a misunderstanding. But a police report obtained by the paper notes that the family was farther away from the ducklings than Falbo was and had no problem seeing them in the grass.

Soini also defended his employee in an interview with CBS 12. “He’s not cruel, he would not have done this deliberately,” Soini, who gave only his first name to the CBS affiliate, said. Soini rents a room in his home to Falbo and as employed the landscaper for nine months. Soini added that he believes his employee threw the lawnmower into reverse not out of cruelty but because “there were more in front of him … when he backed up it was to prevent [killing] the ones that were still there.”

Gontchar told the Palm Beach paper that since that awful day, the mother duck and her two remaining children have returned to the site multiple times. “She came back and was clucking, calling for her ducklings. But they weren’t there.”

The couple is struggling to explain to Kai what it is that he witnessed, Jentzsch told the Sun Sentinel. “He asked me,” Jentzch said, “‘Is everybody out there like this?'”


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