Therapy Ducks? Unconventional Animals Help People Cope with Mental Conditions


An Iraq War veteran living in Ohio doesn’t use the standard therapy dog to help him move past his depression and post-traumatic stress disorder by keeping him active. Instead, Darin Welker has 14 — yes, 14 — therapy ducks that he raises in West Lafayette, a suburb of Columbus.

Now, however, his beloved ducks may be in jeopardy after he received a citation from the city in June, a month after being told he had to get rid of the ducks. He’s now scheduled to appear in a county court and face fines for keeping his pets.  The town banned citizens from owning fowl and other farm animals in 2010.

“While we know that a wide variety of animals can be wonderful companions or pets, not every animal is suited to therapy work,” said Glen Miller, a spokesman for Pet Partners, a national nonprofit organization that trains and registers therapy animals.

Pet Partners, for the most part, doesn’t include ducks among its list of effectively therapeutic animals, but Welker makes a passionate case for them.

“They’re quite a relaxing animal, and they help comfort me in different situations,” Welker told the Conshohocken Tribune. “[Watching them] keeps you entertained for hours at a time.”

While Welker’s ducks may still be in jeopardy for now, he isn’t the first to use an unconventional animal to help cope with mental conditions. There are cases of far stranger therapy animals that make Welker’s ducks seem tame by comparison.

While rabbits, horses, and even miniature pigs are odd enough, MTN Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas takes the cake for bizarre therapy animals. The organization brings llamas to patients, both young and old, in hospice care with mental and emotional problems. Many of the most introverted patients reportedly brighten up whenever the llamas come around.