Pet owners should control animals
J.W. Blackwood, Danville Postmaster
For every letter carrier bitten, hundreds of children needlessly suffer the pain and trauma of dog bites. Whatever the reasons for them, dog bites are a serious problem for the entire community, not just letter carriers trying to deliver your mail.
Nationwide, U.S. Postal Service carriers suffered 3,300 dog bites last year. That's an average of 11 dog attacks every delivery day, and that figure doesn't include the number of threatening incidents that did not result in injury.
These numbers pale in comparison with the more than 4.7 million people, mostly children and the elderly, who suffer injuries from dog attacks each year.
If a letter carrier needs to deliver a certified letter or a package to you, put your dog into a separate room before opening your front door. Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to get a stranger.
Just ask Dover, Del. Postmaster Jack Bailey. A letter carrier at his post office, who had survived eight attacks during his 20-year career, felt secure in his ability to avoid dog bites. He owns four dogs himself. But, in February 1993, that carrier would be scarred for life, both physically and emotionally.
While delivering to a mailbox at the entrance to a customer's home, the carrier watched in horror as a 100-pound dog charged the front door. Instinctively, he braced his foot against the door as the dog backed up to charge again. This time the animal crashed through the Plexiglas door and tore into the flesh of his arm.
"It happened so quickly that he didn't have time to react," Bailey explained. "The animal's bite so severely shredded his left arm that he has undergone several restorative surgeries and may never have full use of his arm."
Nationally, the number of carriers bitten by dogs has declined over the years. This is because of greater cooperation from dog owners, stricter leash laws, and stepped-up efforts to educate letter carriers and the public about dealing with the problem.
Our letter carriers are vigilant and dedicated, but we may be forced to stop mail delivery at an address if a letter carrier is threatened by a vicious dog. In some instances, Postal Service employees have sued and collected damages for dog bite injuries. We can't control people's dogs. Only dog owners can do that.
While some attribute attacks on letter carriers to dogs' inbred aversion to uniforms, experts say the psychology actually runs much deeper. Every day that a letter carrier comes into a dog's territory, the dog barks and the letter carrier leaves.
Day after day the dog sees this action repeated. After a week or two, the dog appears to feel invincible against intruders. Once the dog gets loose, there's a good chance it will attack.
Dog owners should remind their children about the need to keep the family dog secured. We also recommend parents ask their children not to take mail directly from letter carriers. A dog may see handing mail to a child as a threatening gesture.
These simple reminders and helpful tips can reduce the hazard of dog attacks. Help us to help you this spring and summer.
Three suggestions to help take the bite out of your dog: