NEW JERSEY — More than 5,300 Postal Service employees were attacked by dogs while delivering the mail last year.
Aggressive dog behavior is a common safety concern USPS employees face. To keep its workers safe, the organization is providing important information on how dog owners can be good stewards for safe mail delivery as part of its annual National Dog Bite Awareness Week public service campaign.
The campaign runs through Saturday, June 10. This year’s theme is “Even good dogs have bad days.”
“When letter carriers deliver mail in our communities, dogs that are not secured or leashed can become a nemesis and unpredictable and attack,” said Leeann Theriault, USPS employee safety and health awareness manager. “Help us deliver your mail safely by keeping your dog secure and out of the way before your carrier arrives.”
Pet Owners Can Help Support Safe Mail Delivery
Mail carriers know all dogs can bite, even those perceived as nonaggressive. Dogs are generally protective of their turf and dog owners have an important responsibility to control them to ensure safe mail delivery.
Most people know the approximate time their letter carrier arrives every day. Securing your dog before the carrier approaches your property will minimize any potentially dangerous interactions.
When a letter carrier comes to your home, keep dogs:
- Inside the house or behind a fence;
- Away from the door or in another room; or
- On a leash.
Pet owners also should remind children not to take mail directly from a letter carrier as the dog may view the carrier as a threat to the child.
Inform Yourself, See the Mail Before It Arrives
By using Informed Delivery, a free USPS service, customers can digitally preview incoming mail and packages from a computer, tablet or mobile device. More than 52 million customers have enrolled since it was launched in 2017. Sign up is at informeddelivery.usps.com. This service can help dog owners anticipate when their carrier will arrive.
“When our mail carriers are bitten, it is usually a ‘good dog’ that had not previously behaved in a menacing way,” said USPS Occupational Safety and Health Senior Director Linda DeCarlo. “In 2022, too many aggressive dogs impacted the lives of our employees while delivering the mail. Please help us reduce that number by being a responsible pet owner who secures their dog as we deliver the mail.”
Many attacks reported by letter carriers came from dogs whose owners regularly stated, “My dog won’t bite.” Dog bites are entirely preventable. One bite is one too many.
Being Attentive While Delivering
Letter carriers are trained to observe an area where they know dogs may be present. They are taught to be alert for potentially dangerous conditions and to respect a dog’s territory.
Letter carriers are trained to:
- Not startle a dog;
- Keep their eyes on any dog;
- Never assume a dog will not bite;
- Make some noise or rattle a fence to alert a dog if entering a yard;
- Never attempt to pet or feed a dog; and
- place their foot against an outward swinging door to prevent a dog from escaping.
If a dog attacks, carriers are also trained to stand their ground and protect their body by placing something between them and the dog — such as a mail satchel — and to use dog repellent, if necessary.
Even though postal officials ask customers to control their dogs, bites still happen and may result in injuries to carriers and costly medical expenses for dog owners. Please heed the above best practices to help stop dog bites and protect your mail carrier.
“Recently, I was delivering to a customer’s mailbox and was nearly bitten by their large aggressive dog,” said Swain Lowe, a letter carrier in Manassas, Virginia. “Despite the dog being behind a fence, it still managed to jump over and charge me. Thankfully, I was aware of it and remembered not to run but to turn and use my satchel as a shield to prevent what could have been a terrible bite.”
Carriers have tools to alert them to dogs on their routes. A dog alert feature on carriers’ handheld scanners can remind them of a possible dog hazard, and dog warning cards may be used during mail sorting to alert carriers to routes where a dog may interfere with delivery.
Lastly, when a carrier feels unsafe, mail service could be halted — not only for the dog owner, but for the entire neighborhood. When mail service is stopped, mail must be picked up at the Post Office. Service will not be restored until the aggressive dog is properly restrained.
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