WEST LAFAYETTE — Iraq vet Darin Welker is facing a citation and a hearing in an Ohio municipal court for owning 14 ducks, as they are in violation of a village ordinance.
Welker, who lives in West Lafayette, Ohio, was cited on June 23 with a minor misdemeanor.
He has a hearing Wednesday in Coshocton Municipal Court and plans to talk about how much help his ducks give him.
"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.
He said that he uses the ducks for therapy after being wounded in 2005 in Iraq and that he 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 that he keep the animals.
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 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.
"Taking care of them is both mental and physical therapy," he said, adding that just watching them "keeps you entertained for hours at a time."
Welker said he hasn't worked outside his military service since 2000.
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."
It's a situation that Welker says is "aggravating in a lot of ways."
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 that Welker could be fined for a minor misdemeanor is $150.