An Iraq veteran is in danger of losing 14 ducks he has raised in West Lafayette, Ohio since spring. While he obtained the ducks as therapeutic pets, keeping the birds violates a local ordinance that bans owning farm animals within city limits.
In 2005, Welker returned from war with a serious back injury and PTSD. Although the VA ultimately covered Welker’s back surgery (a speedy seven years after he returned from Iraq), the government agency declined to cover the physical rehabilitation Welker’s doctor recommended. Moreover, the VA has also never provided mental health care for Welker’s PTSD.
Finally, Welker decided to take matters into his own hands. Learning that caring for ducks can be therapeutic, he adopted just over a dozen, which he has raised in his backyard. He even has multiple kiddie pools so that they can swim. So far, Welker considers the therapy a success. “They’re quite a relaxing animal, and they help comfort me in different situations,” he said.
This adorable solution is in jeopardy, however, because of the farm animal restrictions West Lafayette passed in 2010. At the moment, Welker only faces a misdemeanor charge of $150. Still, if he is to be found guilty of illegally keeping the ducks on his property, he could face additional charges that would ultimately force him to give up the birds altogether.
Hopefully, some sort of exception can be made to permit Welker to keep his ducks. In 2013, the city council altered the law slightly to accommodate Mary Smith, a local woman with scoliosis who had a pot-bellied pig as a therapy pet. Alas, the law was so specific to Smith that it only allows residents to keep a single pot-bellied pig if a doctor signs off on it – a caveat that is not relevant to Welker’s situation.
Meanwhile, the VA has composed an official letter encouraging West Lafayette officials to allow Welker to keep the ducks on therapeutic grounds. So nice and responsible of the VA to at least furnish that letter after dropping the ball on more conventional forms of mental health treatment and physical therapy!
In a lot of ways, this story could just as easily be yet another one about how awful Veterans Affairs is. The care that agency provides to people who risked their lives for the United States is so inadequate that Welker found more success turning to ducks instead. Unfortunately, the VA is such a mess that hoping it gets it act together to actually help Welker seems unrealistic.
In this precise moment, let’s instead focus on what we can actually help change now: convincing the local government to not fine Welker for owning therapy pets. Sign this petition urging the town to let Welker own ducks.
If the man cannot receive treatment for his PTSD and backaches, at least let him keep the ducks that help him feel better!