The U.S. Postal Service National Dog Bite Awareness Week begins Sunday and officials urged dog owners to secure their dogs away from the front door of their home and to never take mail directly from a carrier with a dog nearby, citing stories of vicious attacks on postal workers.
"During this difficult time, our letter carriers are delivering mail and they need to do it safely," said Postal Service Safety Awareness Program Manager Chris Johnson. "We can continue to move the number of dog attacks downward by increasing awareness."
In Los Angeles last year, 74 mail carriers were attacked by dogs, according to LA Postmaster Joe Zapata. Nationwide, the numbers dropped to 5,803 in 2019, down by more than 200 from 2018 and more than 400 fewer than in 2017.
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"One bite is too many,'' the postal service said in a statement kicking off this year's campaign, "Be Alert: Prevent the Bite," and highlighting new technology to reduce attacks.
Handheld scanners used by carriers to confirm deliveries now include a feature that indicates the presence of a dog at an individual address. The mobile delivery devices also alert customers to mail and packages on their way allowing dog owners to plan for the letter carrier's arrival by safely securing their pets in a room far from the front door.
Los Angeles-based carriers shared stories of bites, attacks and near misses, including dogs running through screen doors and plate glass windows.
Juan B. said he was viciously attacked by a pack of dogs while delivering his route on a Saturday afternoon and ended up with 50 stitches to his face, a severe bite on his left side and almost lost his right eye. Juan still suffers from post-traumatic syndrome as his stress and anxiety rises each time he recalls the incident, he said.
Susanne H. has been bitten several times on the job, all by dogs that got loose inadvertently. The most recent attack occurred while delivering mail at a house that Susanne went to every day and where she had never seen or heard a dog. As she was putting mail into the mailbox, she heard a noise and a big dog crashed through the door and bit her on the arm. She was able to shake it off, but the dog bit her on the back of her leg and forced her to the ground before the resident intervened.
Robert R. encountered a pit bull, owned by a guest of the homeowner, that was chained up in a long driveway. Robert stopped, took a step back and veered to the middle of the street to bypass the home. As the dog moved toward Robert, the mail carrier knew to drop his mailbag between himself and the dog and grab his dog spray.
The dog snapped the chain from the post and continued at Robert, who used the spray on the dog's face, which slowed but didn't stop the animal. Robert used the bag in defense and the dog pulled it from him and lunged towards the carrier's head and neck, biting him in the arm that Robert threw up in defense. Neighbors helped restrain the dog before he could bite again.
Tips for dog owners include:
- when a carrier delivers mail or packages to your front door, place your dog in a separate room and close that door before opening the front door; and
- remind children and other family members not to take mail directly from carriers in the presence of the family pet, as the dog may view the carrier handing mail to a family member as a threatening gesture.
If a carrier feels threatened by a dog, or if a dog is loose or unleashed, the owner may be asked to pick up mail at a post office or other facility until the carrier is assured the pet has been restrained. The same precaution may be taken if the dog is roaming the neighborhood.