Dog attacks against mail carriers on the rise; tips for preventing an incident this holiday season

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ST. GEORGE — The holiday season may not be quite as merry for an increasing number of U.S. Postal carriers reporting dog bites and aggressive canine encounters as they deliver a growing number of packages as Christmas draws near, Postal Service officials say.

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Nationwide, the week of Dec. 15-21 is the busiest mailing and delivery week of the year for the U.S. Postal Service. Mail carriers deliver more than 28 million packages each day during this time, including hundreds of thousands to homes and businesses across Utah, U.S. Postal Service’s Margaret Putman said in a press release Wednesday.

At the core of the Postal Service are its postal carriers — the men and women who run up and down porch steps, dodge less-than-friendly animals and brave inclement weather to make sure the mail arrives on time. But during the holiday season, the number of mail carriers being bitten by dogs is on the rise.

In Utah, seven mail carriers have suffered dog bites so far this season, and a number of those attacks required medical attention beyond first aid. In fact, in some cases, the injuries prevented carriers from being able to return to their normal duties for a period of time. Additionally, there have been “hundreds of reported close calls.”

Putman told St. George News that four of the dog bites were reported in Southern Utah. Three of the reports involved mail carriers that were bitten as the dog ran out of the residence, while one report involved a dog that ran into the mail truck and bit a letter carrier sorting the mail.

“That doesn’t even include all of the attempts and near-misses,” she said.

The scenario is often the same, involving a postal carrier who walks up to a house to deliver a package. When the customer opens the door, their dog runs out and bites the carrier.

If the case that a mail carrier is confronted by an aggressive dog, their shoulder-slung sack of mail isn’t just to tote credit card offers. It is also considered their first line of defense against aggressive dogs, which is one of the first things a carrier will learn during orientation. Additionally, Putman said, carriers are given pepper spray to ward off an attack, but that isn’t always effective.

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When Putman worked as a mail carrier, she said there were times dogs would rush up on her, and in one instance, the pepper spray had no effect on one particularly large dog.

“It didn’t even phase the dog at all,” she said.

U.S. Postal Service District Manager Laura Hubrich said these dog attacks are preventable, and keeping the dog secured is the first step in preventing this type of incident from taking place.

“If a carrier delivers a package or a certified letter to your front door, place your dog into a separate room and close the door before opening the front door,” she said in the statement.

Hubrich also said that dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to get at strangers, which can be avoided if the dog is secured in another room.

The Postal Service provides the following tips to prevent a dog bite or near-miss during mail delivery.

  • Obedience training can teach dogs proper behavior and help owners control their dog in any situation.
  • When a letter carrier comes to the home, keep dogs inside of the house or behind a fence, away from the door, in another room or on a leash.
  • Dogs can be protective of their territory and may interpret the actions of letter carriers as a threat, so take precautions when accepting mail in the presence of your pet.
  • Dogs that haven’t been properly socialized, receive little attention or handling, or are left tied up for long periods may become biters.

Each day in the U.S., the Postal Service processes and delivers nearly 188 million pieces of first-class mail through the 75,000 letter carriers who arrive on foot or by vehicle. But, either way, they are on foot at the mailbox or the front door — where 5,700 become victims of a dog attack each year. More than 15 carriers are injured on any given day, according to the Postal Service.

2018 U.S. Postal Service facts

  • The post office is massive, processing 154 billion pieces of mail annually — 800 million of which will be delivered this holiday season.

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  • There are 500,000 people employed by the postal service.
  • They purchased 675,000 tires in 2018 — if stacked end-to-end they would stretch 285 miles long, which is farther than the distance from St. George to Salt Lake City.
  • They went through 730 million rubber bands — 40,000 miles of rubber bands could wrap around the world 1.6 times.
  • Mail carriers traveled 1.4 billion miles delivering mail, which is the equivalent of more than 56,000 laps around Earth, nearly 5,900 trips to the moon or about 15 trips to the sun.
  • They paid a total of $1.9 billion in salaries and benefits every two weeks.
  • They used zero tax dollars — the service relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.
  • They handle nearly half of the world’s mail volume.
  • If the Postal Service were a private company — it would be the 40th largest company in the U.S.
  • It employs more than 100,000 military veterans and is one of the largest employers of veterans in the country.
  • It has the nation’s largest retail network — bigger than McDonald’s, Starbucks and Walmart combined.

The Postal Service has only one defined universal service obligation —  frequency of delivery.

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Despite popular belief, that isn’t the Postal Service’s motto. Actually, those words are engraved on the front of the James A. Farley Post Office in New York City, set in stone by the architectural firm that built it. The phrase is taken from an ancient book by the Persian historian Herodotus and refers to messengers in the Persian Empire.

Even so, the Postal Service approves of the sentiment.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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