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Iraq veteran faces fine for therapeutic pet ducks

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July 10, 2014: In this photo, Iraq war veteran Darin Welker, 36, holds one of his ducks at his home in West Lafayette, Ohio. (AP/Coshocton Tribune, Trevor Jones)

An Army veteran who was wounded during the Iraq War is worried a citation will result in him losing his 14 pet ducks, which he says are therapeutic.

Darin Welker, of West Lafayette, was cited with a minor misdemeanor June 23 for having the ducks in his yard. He is scheduled to appear in Coshocton Municipal Court for a hearing Wednesday and could face a $150 fine.

Welker, 36, is afraid he won't be permitted to keep the ducks, which he says help him with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and keep him more active.

The village of West Lafayette, about 80 miles east of Columbus, banned residents from keeping fowl and other farm animals in 2010.

West Lafayette Mayor Jack Patterson declined to comment on Welker's predicament and referred questions to village police Chief Terry Mardis, who couldn't be reached for comment.

Welker told the Coshocton Tribune that he's had the ducks since March. He said they motivate him to get out of the house so he can feed and clean up after them.

"They're quite a relaxing animal, and they help comfort me in different situations," Welker recently told the Tribune as he held one duck like a baby and stroked its neck. "(Watching them) keeps you entertained for hours at a time."

Welker served a year in Iraq with the Army National Guard in 2005 and said he came home with a major back injury that required surgery in 2012.

The Department of Veterans Affairs paid for the back surgery but declined to pay for physical therapy recommended by his surgeon and did not provide him with counseling, he said. That's partly why he has come to rely on the ducks, he said.

Welker said he's planning to tell the judge how much the ducks have helped him. He said he has a letter from the VA's mental health department recommending he be allowed to keep them.

The 14 ducks live in a penned-in area in Welker's backyard, which also has kiddie pools so they can swim.

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