Darin Welker, a veteran of the Iraq War, says he relies on 14 pet ducks for comfort and physical therapy, but by keeping the birds, he's running afoul of local laws.
As a result, the village of West Lafayette, Ohio, is trying to make the 36-year-old ditch his ducks.
Welker told the Coshocton Tribune that he served nearly a year in Iraq in 2005 and came home with a bad back. While the Department of Veterans Affairs paid for his back surgery in 2012, the agency ducked his doctor's request for physical therapy.
In addition, Welker says he's facing both depression and post-traumatic stress, conditions that are eased by his 10 Pekin ducks and four mallards.
“Taking care of them is both mental and physical therapy,” Welker told the Tribune. “(Watching them) keeps you entertained for hours at a time.”
While it may seem a little unusual to rely on ducks for therapy, it's not unheard of. In January, British Army veteran Paul Wilkie, who was a bomb disposal officer in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, said ducks helped him overcome post-traumatic stress.
"I saw children playing with mines and getting killed. Every night I go to sleep, I have to relive that horrible experience," he said. "I’m getting it under control now, thanks to the ducks."
Welker told the Tribune the VA even provided him with a letter recommending that he be allowed to keep the ducks. But village officials say a 2010 law allows only "dogs, cats, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, birds or mice" as pets and cited him with a violation that carries a potential fine of up to $150.
Welker plans to make his case to a judge on Wednesday.
Those wishing to express support for Welker and his ducks can should contact West Lafayette Mayor Jack L. Patterson via phone at (740) 545-6327 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.