Dogs and postal workers have been battling each other since the U.S. Postal Service started delivering mail to homes. While there were not as many dog attacks in 2017 as in 2016, there were plenty.
U.S. postal carriers were bitten and/or attacked by dogs 6,244 times across the United States in 2017. That’s a high number, but it’s 500-plus fewer dog attacks than were recorded in 2016.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is showcasing technology that alerts mail carriers of potential attacks while releasing its annual list of cities where the most dog attacks were recorded. The organization also highlights safety initiatives to help protect its employees and offers tips to pet owners.
“We’re encouraged by the decrease in dog attacks,” said U.S. Postal Service Safety Director Linda DeCarlo in San Diego, where postal employees suffered 46 attacks in 2017 — the fifth ranked city last year. DeCarlo said the totals are still too high, “but we’re confident that with continuing education and dog bite prevention training, along with advancing technology, we can keep more people safe and keep attacks trending downward.”
DeCarlo highlights USPS safety measures that alert mail carriers to dogs on their delivery routes. The Package Pickup application on usps.com asks customers to indicate if there are dogs at their addresses when they schedule package pickups. This information is provided to carriers on their delivery scanners, which send alerts if an unleashed dog is reported in a delivery area.
“The scanners that our carriers use to confirm a customer’s delivery include a feature for them to indicate the presence of a dog at an individual address,” said DeCarlo. “This information is particularly helpful for substitute carriers who fill in for regular carriers on their days off.”
DeCarlo was in San Diego to kick off National Dog Bite Prevention Week. The Postal Service, joined by the American Humane Society, American Veterinary Medical Association, Insurance Information Institute and State Farm Insurance, is driving home the message that dog bites are a national issue and education can resolve the issue.
Half of the 4.5 million Americans bitten by dogs annually are children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
DeCarlo gave the following tips and encouraged sharing them using the hashtag #preventdogbites. A video on dog bite prevention tips is available on the Postal Service’s YouTube channel.
If 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. Some dogs burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to attack visitors. Dog owners should keep the family pet secured.
Parents should remind their 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 person handing mail to a family member as a threatening gesture.
The Postal Service places the safety of its employees as a top priority. 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 until the carrier is assured the pet has been restrained.
If a dog is roaming the neighborhood, the pet owner’s neighbors also may be asked to pick up their mail at the area’s Post Office.
American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, estimates that more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year with 800,000 seeking medical attention for these bites — more than half of them being children.
“Two-thirds of the injuries occurring in children four years or younger are to the head or neck region, and studies have also shown that the greatest percentage of dog-bite fatalities occurred among children and unsupervised newborns left with dogs — something that should never occur,” said Mark Stubis, chief communications officer, American Humane.
“To help, American Humane offers a free online booklet, ‘Pet Meets Baby,’ with valuable information on introducing a new child to a home with a pet — or a new pet into a home with a child available for families with children.”
Insurance company State Farm reports that in 2017, it paid more than $132 million as a result of 3,618 dog-related injury claims. The average cost paid per claim was $36,573. “State Farm is also one of the few insurance companies that does not exclude homeowner or renter insurance coverage because of the breed of dog owned,” said Heather Paul, State Farm public affairs specialist. “The company reinforces that responsible pet ownership and educating children about how to safely interact with dogs is key to reducing dog bites.”
“Veterinarians see firsthand the needless heartbreak a dog bite can cause,” said Dr. Mike Topper, AVMA President. “We know that dog bites are not a breed-specific issue and that any dog can bite. We also know that most bites can be prevented through education. Your veterinarian and the AVMA have extensive resources designed to keep your pup, no matter what their breed, a happy, healthy member of your family and community.”
A total of 6,244 postal employees were attacked by dogs in 2017. The city registering the most bites or attacks was Houston with 71 reports, followed closely by Los Angeles with 67 bites or attacks.