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Ohio Veteran With PTSD Fights To Keep Ducks

A small village in eastern Ohio is home to a controversy involving an Iraq War vet, his neighbors and his ducks. The vet suffers from PTSD and says his ducks bring him peace of mind. But officials in West Lafayette, near Coshocton, see it differently. In a backyard on Grandview Street in West Lafayette a half-dozen ducks scamper around. They splash in a plastic kiddy pool. The ducks belong to Darin Welker, an Army National Guard veteran who served in Iraq in 2005. He says he returned from the Middle East with back injuries and with PTSD. But he says duck-watching helps. “I had been suffering depression and struggling to get up and move around due to the pain and mobility issues from surgery. And we was out and this farm we was at had several ducks; they were running around the yard acting goofy,” Welker says. So last March, Welker and his wife Shirley Wagner decided to buy more than a dozen ducklings. “It brought my spirits up some. So we bought 14 of them,” Welker says. At first the ducks lived inside. By May, they were old enough to move outside. The Welkers turned the ducks loose in their small, fenced-in backyard. That’s when the village got a phone call. Mayor Jack Patterson picks up the story. “It all stemmed from a neighbor contacting our village administrator and saying, ‘Don’t you have an ordinance for farm animals? Well I know a guy that has a bunch of ducks.’ And at that time it was 14 ducks walking around in his backyard,” Patterson says. The village police chief gave Welker 30 days to get rid of the ducks. But Welker refused. Now the matter’s in court. The Welkers gave eight of the ducks away, but they’re fighting to keep the remaining six. Welker says they’re an important part of his recovery from PTSD. “It’s very treatable. Having a half dozen ducks running around in the backyard improves it,” Welker says. The Mayor says the rules are clear. “The law is the law. That’s how I look at this thing. The law at that time said no farm animals – no chickens, no turkeys no ducks, horses, ponies, cows; that type of a farm animal – is allowed in the village,” Patterson says. Mayor Patterson says they sympathize with Welker. They changed the village ordinance to permit two therapy animals –20 pounds or less – to anyone who could demonstrate a need. “You know, we are allowing him to have therapy ducks. But we feel two therapy animals is enough,” Patterson says. Welker says the ducks aren’t therapy animals, they’re for emotional support. “It’s funny with their new ordinance, they changed it to allow therapy animals but they have never taken into consideration anything so far as emotional support animals,” Welker says. Again, Mayor Patterson. “I feel we did everything that we could to accommodate, and apparently Mr. Welker thinks in his mind, maybe a minimum of six ducks would be better than two ducks,” Patterson says. As the case continues in court Welker watches over his flock, occasionally snuggling with his housebroken pet duck Beauregard. “She will come in and sit in the recliner with me and watch TV,” Welker says. Welker says he’s been able to eliminate most of the medication he takes for PTSD and depression. His wife says the ducks have made the difference.