Preventing Dog Bites on Mailmen
Every year, about 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs. While anyone can potentially become the victim of a dog bite, some groups of people are more vulnerable than others. Children, for example, have the highest rate of dog bites, but for other groups of people, the risk of dog bites is an occupational hazard. Since letter carriers need to step into the yards of homeowners to deliver mail, they’re at a high risk of being bitten by unleashed dogs or dogs that get loose when owners open the door to collect their mail.
As online shopping has skyrocketed in popularity, postal workers are now spending more time delivering packages than ever before and the rate of dog attacks on postal workers reflects that. The U.S. Postal Service reported that 6,755 postal workers were bitten by dogs in 2016, the highest that number has been in three decades. The number of dog bites on postal workers have steadily been rising since 2013 and in 2016, Detroit was the city with the 6th highest amount of postal worker dog bites.
In response to the growing numbers of attacks on postal workers, the U.S. Postal Service is taking steps to protect their workers. If a letter carrier feels threatened by a dog on a person’s property, they can refuse to deliver mail to that address and notify the homeowner that they’ll need to pick up their mail at the local post office until the dog is restrained. Postal workers also have access to an app which they can use to identify addresses that have potentially dangerous dogs, which is particularly valuable information for those who are working routes they aren’t familiar with.
But despite all the safety training and tools the U.S. Postal Service provides for their workers, dog owners have the most power to prevent postal worker dog bites. As Linda DeCarlos, safety director for the U.S. Postal Service, frequently pointed out during National Dog Bite Prevention Week, “Even good dogs have bad days.”
The absolute best thing you can do to prevent your dog from biting a postal worker is make sure your dog is properly restrained. Whether it’s by keeping it on a leash, in a securely fenced-in yard, or in the house, anything you can do to prevent your dog from coming near the postal worker is very important. Remember that certain types of doors might not be enough to keep a dog in the house. Dogs have been known to break through screen doors and doors with large panes of glass if they see a visitor coming.
If you need to open your door to collect your mail or a package from a letter carrier, make sure the dog is secured in another room. Don’t just assume that you’ll be able to push the dog out of the way. Many dogs will perceive a postal worker handing mail to its owner as being a threatening move and will try to attack.
Do you use the U.S. Postal Service’s website to schedule package pickups at your home? When you do, you’ll have an option to indicate that you have a dog on your property. If you have a dog, be sure to use it so that so the worker who comes to your home will know what to expect.
Take it from a dog bite lawyer: by taking these simple steps, you’ll be able to help protect postal workers and keep your beloved family pet safe at the same time.