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Iraq War vet cited for owning 14 therapeutic pet ducks

Jul. 20, 2014 - 02:44PM   |  
Darin Welker
Iraq War veteran Darin Welker, 36, holds one of his ducks at his home in West Lafayette, Ohio. (Trevor Jones / AP)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, OHIO — Darin Welker is facing a citation and a hearing in Coshocton Municipal Court for owning 14 ducks, as they are in violation of a village ordinance.

Welker, who lives on Grandview Street in West Lafayette, was cited June 23 with a minor misdemeanor. He said he uses the ducks for therapy after being wounded in 2005 in Iraq and should be allowed to keep them.

Welker said he has a letter from the Mental Health Department of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs recommending he keep the ducks.

“I came back (from Iraq) with a major back injury, and between the back injury and the (post-traumatic stress disorder) that I also brought home, there were numerous problems,” Welker said.

In 2012, the VA paid for a surgery to Welker’s back but did not approve the physical therapy recommended by his surgeon, nor did it provide mental therapy, Welker said.

Welker acquired his ducks in March when they were just days old. He had first heard the idea of using ducks as therapy weeks before and thought it wouldn’t hurt to try, he said.

He feeds them and takes care of them, which helps him physically, he said, and sometimes he just spends time with them or watches them interact with each other, which helps him mentally.

“Taking care of them is both mental and physical therapy,” he said. “(Watching them) keeps you entertained for hours at a time.”

Welker hasn’t worked outside his military service since 2000, he said.

The law in West Lafayette about farm animals kept within the village was adopted in 2010.

The relevant section states no “chickens, turkeys, ducks, live poultry or fowl of any kind, horses, ponies, cows, calves, goats, sheep, or live animals of any kind except dogs, cats, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, birds or mice shall be kept in the Village. No person shall keep or harbor rabbits which cause inconvenience or annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities by smell, unsightly housing, or trespass, or which cause damage to the property of others.”

Welker has a hearing at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Coshocton Municipal Court about his ducks. Welker said he plans to talk about how much help they give him, both physically and mentally.

“(The situation) is aggravating in a lot of ways,” Welker said.

West Lafayette Mayor Jack Patterson referred calls to village police Chief Terry Mardis, who could not be reached for comment. According to Ohio Revised Code, the most Welker could be fined for a minor misdemeanor is $150.

Last year, the Coshocton City Council approved a change to a law regarding the keeping and raising of farm animals in city limits to allow one pot-bellied pig per household. The pig must be registered within 30 days of ownership with the mayor’s office, and a doctor must verify the pig is a therapy pet.

That change came as a result of one resident, Mary Smith, who used her pot-bellied pig as therapy for her scoliosis and for her wheelchair-bound daughter’s spina bifida.

Smith received a letter from the Coshocton City Health Department stating she was in violation of the law and had to get rid of her pig, Harley. She had said she wasn’t previously aware of the law, but she obtained a prescription from her doctor stating the pig was effective and should be used as a therapy animal.

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