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White Duck Tales

Last Monday, the Seattle Times ran a story about Darin Welker, a US Army veteran who fought in the 2005 Iraq War. Mr. Welker ran afoul of the law (pun intended), because he keeps 14 pet ducks at his home in West Lafayette, Ohio, where the personable birds are classified as farm animals. Fowl and other farm animals are illegal in residential areas. Officials might have overlooked one or two ducks, but fourteen ducks can’t be camouflaged. The city charged Mr. Welker with a misdemeanor on June 23rd.

Mr. Welker, who’d kept the ducks on his property since March, disagrees with the charge. His ducks aren’t farm animals. They’re therapy ducks. When you think about it, ducks have as much right to be animal companions as any other creature. Mr. Welker returned from Iraq with PTSD and a major back injury. The VA paid for back surgery, but not the recommended follow-up physical therapy or counseling. Enter the ducks. Mr. Welker says the ducks motivate him to get out of the house and move, because he has to feed and look after them.

The local paper, Coshocton Tribune, reported the story and interviewed Mr. Welker. The Associated Press spread the news, which explains why Mr. Welker’s plight was in the Seattle Times.  Papers across the country picked up the story. People called to express sympathy and several offered to pay the $140 fine, but Mr. Welker wants his day in court. He may not get it, because Mr. Welker’s fine and court costs were paid online by someone in Newtown, Pennsylvania. The court views payment of a fine as an admission of guilt. The court may have to change its procedure. Mr. Welker disputes the charge, and didn’t pay the fine or authorize someone else to do so.

Therapy animals aren’t restricted to dogs. The job description also fits horses, llamas, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, rats, miniature pigs, alpacas, donkeys, and mini-horses or donkeys.


Since Aflac Group Insurance launched the first campaign in 2000, the Aflac Duck has become a “duck for all seasons.” A duck who, in his most recent advertisement, is not good with tools, but is an ever ready source of help when accidents happen.

The Aflac Duck is a White Pekin Duck, the most common domestic duck in America, easily found in park lakes throughout the country. The duck’s acting ability was first spotted by an art director at the Kaplan Thaler Group as he brainstormed a campaign for Aflac Group Insurance. Legend has it, he was in New York’s Central Park muttering “Aflac. Aflac.” when a duck waddled up and quacked at him. Quack-Aflac. A star was born.

One of the first ads featured two men sitting on a park bench being approached by an insistent white duck. You can see it here.  Magic. In 2004, the Aflac Duck was inducted into the Advertising Walk of Fame. Six years later, he joined the PR News Public Relations Hall of Fame. But the true measure of his success came in November 2011, when the Aflac Duck joined Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. The Aflac Duck has a Facebook page with 456,798 “Likes” and sports the Twitter handle @aflacduck with almost 28 thousand followers.

If 28,000 people want to know what the Aflac Duck is up to, then I say Mr. Welker should be allowed to keep his therapy ducks.

For More Information:

Featured Image: Pekin Duck by Agam Hay. Creative Commons Attribution. Wikimedia Commons.

Information on therapy animals can be found at Pet Partners.

Publicis Kaplan Thaler.

Aflac Group Insurance.

Information on Pekin Ducks can be found at Metzer Farms.

News Stories on Mr. Welker

“Iraq vet in Ohio cited for owning 14 pet ducks” Seattle  July 21, 2014.

“Stranger Pays Veteran’s Duck Fine Without His OK. ” Coshocton July 22, 2014.

“Iraq Veteran Fights to Keep Therapy Ducks.” July 24, 2014.


Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

 Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.

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