Iraq vet may lose therapeutic flock of ducks, face fines, over town rules

A flock of therapeutic ducks that started as a lark for a disabled Iraq war veteran is turning into a battle of its own in a small town in Ohio – and getting national attention.

darinwelker0721According to NBC News, Army National Guard vet Darin Welker has been disabled from a back injury he suffered while in the service in 2005 that required major surgery in 2012.

The Department of Veterans Affairs paid for his surgery, but turned Welker down for physical therapy afterward. The VA also balked at paying for mental therapy to treat post-traumatic stress syndrome and depression.

Welker told the Marion (Ohio) Star that he turned to the ducks after hearing that they’d been useful for other people’s recovery. He got some chicks to start with and only planned on doing it for a few weeks, but then the birds started to grow on him.

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

There’s only one problem. West Lafayette, Ohio, where Welker lives, doesn’t allow residents to keep farm animals. The village changed the law in 2013 to allow each household a pot-bellied pig for therapeutic purposes (for a woman afflicted with scoliosis and her daughter, who has spina bifida), but ducks aren’t allowed.

Welker’s case has gotten a lot of attention for a small town ordinance violation. Besides the local press, Welker’s been written up by ABC News, NBC News, Time Magazine, USA Today, and the Huffington Post, among others.

He’s got a Wednesday in Coshocton Municipal Court and could face a fine of $150 – and the loss of his ducks.

The whole thing is “aggravating in a lot of ways,” Welker said.

Check out the video here, and you’ll see why.

Joe Saunders

Joe Saunders, a 25-year newspaper veteran, is a staff writer and editor for BizPac Review who lives in Tallahassee and covers capital and Florida politics. Email Joe at [email protected].

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