Monday, July 22, 2024

Postal Service cautions pet owners, promotes dog bite awareness

The U.S. Postal Service’s 2024 National Dog Bite Awareness Campaign is underway, offering information on how dog owners can help ensure safe mail delivery and enhance employee safety.

The campaign – “Don’t let your dog bite the hand that serves you” – started on Sunday and runs through this Sunday. According to a Postal Service news release, incidents involving dog attacks on postal employees rose to more than 5,800 last year.

“Letter carriers are exposed to potential hazards every day, none more prevalent than a canine encounter,” said Leeann Theriault, Postal Service manager for employee safety and health awareness, in the release. “All it takes is one interaction for a letter carrier to possibly suffer an injury. The U.S. Postal Service consistently encourages responsible pet ownership. The national dog bite campaign is an effort to promote dog bite awareness to keep our customers, their dogs, and letter carriers safe while delivering the mail.”

According to data provided in the release, Los Angeles saw the highest number of dog biting incidents of any U.S. city last year with 65. It was followed by Houston with 56 bites and Chicago with 48.

Ranking by state, California also saw the most dog bites with 727 incidents last year – 52 more bites than recorded in 2022. Texas ranked second with 411 incidents, a slight increase from 404 in 2022. Ohio had the third-highest number with 359 in 2023 compared to 311 in 2022.

(Graphic: Joe Antoshak/FreightWaves)

Mail carrier recounts dog attack

Tara Snyder has been working as a letter carrier in Pennsylvania for seven years. She was bitten by a dog in April in an incident that required her to get over a dozen stitches in her hand.

The day of the incident, Snyder was on an ordinary route delivering mail to a house with a fenced gate, a screen door and another wooden door. She heard the dogs barking in the house, which was normal.
“I always hear them, but I’ve never seen them outside,” Snyder told FreightWaves in a phone interview. “I rattled the gate before I went in just to make sure that they weren’t loose outside in their yard. Nothing happened, so I opened the gate.”

After approaching the porch, Snyder started to put the mail in the mailbox by the wooden door. As soon as she did, a large german shepherd pushed open the screen door from the other side of the porch and ran at her.

“I turned with my mail bag, which had packages and stuff in it, and I tried to block it with the mail bag using my hand to put it between me and the dog,” Snyder said. When he bit the mail bag, he got my hand too at the same time and ripped it open.”

The owner ran out after the dog and called 911. After arriving at the hospital, Snyder was given a tetanus shot and 16 stitches in her right hand. The dog was vaccinated for rabies, so no rabies shot was necessary.

Snyder was out of work for recovery, after which she returned to light duty for four weeks. During this time, she couldn’t use her dominant hand, so she trained new carriers on how to do routes. On May 24, Snyder resumed her regular route.

“My skin is still tight on my hand,” she said. “[So I don’t have] the grasp or the strength all the way back in my hand yet. But it’s getting better, and I won’t have a scar forever.”

Snyder said she and other postal employees conduct safety talks weekly about dog bites, animal interference and when to avoid houses if there are dangerous situations. Before this incident, she never knew any colleagues who had been bitten by a dog at work.

“Most mail carriers are dog people,” Snyder said. “We all know most dogs are friendly most of the time. But if it has teeth, it can bite. It could happen at any time. You could see the same dog every day for a year, and then it has one bad day and it could get you. … You always have to be a little extra cautious. You don’t sneak up on a dog, and if you hear a dog just skip the house and save the mail for the next day. That’s what we’re told to do. That’s what we should be doing: better safe than sorry.”

When asked what the slogan “Don’t bite the hand that serves you” meant to her, Snyder said the No. 1 goal of postal workers is to do their job safely and come home the same way they left for work.

“We don’t want to not come to your house because of an issue, and we don’’t want to make you have to come to the post office to pick up your mail because there’s an issue,” Snyder said. “We just want to go and get our jobs done.”

Preventing dog bites

The Postal Service news release asks dog owners to secure their dogs, big or small, before carriers approach their property to prevent potentially dangerous interactions. Using the agency’s free Informed Delivery service allows customers to digitally preview incoming mail and packages, which can be used to help dog owners anticipate when their carrier will arrive.

Additionally, the release states that pet owners should remind children not to take mail directly from a letter carrier because the dog may view the carrier as a threat to the child. The press release cites data from the Insurance Information Institute that says the average cost per insurance claim for a dog bite is $64,555.

“When a postal employee suffers an injury, the owner could be responsible for medical bills, lost wages, uniform replacement costs, and pain and suffering for the employee,” the release states.

In addition to precautionary training, carriers are trained to stand their ground and protect their body by placing something between them and the dog in the event of an attack. Employees are equipped with a mail satchel that can be used as a shield, and they are trained to use dog repellent if necessary.

“Even though a customer’s dog is friendly to most people, it can always have a bad day,” said Snyder in the news release. “I know, from experience, even when a dog is in the house, customers need to make sure their door is secure so their dog can’t push it open and bite the letter carrier.”

The release notes that letter 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 must be used during mail sorting to alert carriers to addresses where a dog may interfere with delivery.

In the event a carrier feels unsafe, mail service can be stopped and held at the dog owner’s local post office until the carrier feels safe enough to restart delivery. If a dangerous dog issue is not resolved, owners can be required to rent a post office box to receive mail.

The post Postal Service cautions pet owners, promotes dog bite awareness appeared first on FreightWaves.

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