National Dog Bite Prevention Week is May 16-22
“Don’t worry, my dog doesn’t bite!” These are the words dog bite victims often hear right before they are bitten. Of course, dog owners love their dogs and don’t want to believe their dogs would ever hurt another person, but simply put, dogs do bite. 4.5 million people every year become the victims of dog bites, 20% of whom need medical treatment. Dog bites are responsible for about 5% of emergency room visits. In 2013, 31 people died as a result of dog bites.
To raise awareness about dog bite prevention, the U.S. Postal Service sponsors National Dog Bite Prevention Week every year. This year, National Dog Bite Prevention Week is coming up from May 16-22.
Although dog bites can easily happen to anyone, it’s a major occupational hazard for letter carriers. Last year, 5,767 postal workers were the victims of dog bites. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, the groups of people most frequently bitten by the dogs are small children, the elderly, and letter carriers, in that order.
The U.S. Postal Services discourages letter carriers from petting dogs they encounter on their routes. They are also advised against wearing headphones while they work, are taught not to run from dogs, and always carry repellant with them. But dog owners have the most power to prevent dog bites before they happen.
To prevent postal workers from being attacked, the U.S. Postal Service recommends dog owners find out what time their postal carrier typically delivers their mail and keep the dog indoors during that time. Make sure the letter carrier is gone before letting the dog back outside. If you have a mail slot instead of an outdoor mailbox, keep the dog away from the door while mail is being delivered so the postal worker’s fingers won’t get bitten. If you need to open the door to sign for a package or letter, put the dog in another room until the door is shut again. If your mailbox is inside a fenced yard where your dog often spends time running around, either bring the dog inside or put it on a leash during the time when your mail is typically delivered.
The U.S. Postal Service supports the WAIT (Wait, Ask, Invite, and Touch) method for approaching strange dogs safely. The WAIT method breaks down like this:
Wait: Wait to see if the dog seems friendly and if its owner is with it. Stop if the dog seems afraid or aggressive and walk away slowly.
Ask: Ask the dog’s owner if it’s okay to pet the dog. If the owner says no, walk away slowly.
Invite: Let the dog sniff you and keep your hands at your sides with your fingers curled in. Use a quiet voice to speak to the dog. Don’t pet the dog if it doesn’t come to sniff you first.
- Touch: Once the dog has sniffed you, pet the dog gently away from its head and tail.