May 19 – 25 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week and is a good time for dog owners to be reminded that if your dog attacks a mail carrier you may find yourself in court with a big bite out of your wallet. More than 5,600 mail carriers were victims last year of dog attacks, according to the statistics released last Thursday by the U.S. Postal Service.
At the end of March, the U.S. Postal Service reported that 1,005 letter carriers had already been the victims of dog bites in 2012. This highlights the danger to those who provide a vital public service already threatened by Postal budget cutbacks. Closer to home, it indicates that dog owners who benefit from home mail delivery are becoming increasingly careless about assuring the safety of those who provide it.
Nationwide, Houston, Texas, scored the #1 dog bite record in the U.S. in 2011 at 62 attacks, with Columbus, Ohio, and San Diego, California tied at 45 dog attacks, and Los Angeles close behind at 44. Other cities heading the list were Louisville, Ky.; San Antonio, Texas; St. Louis, Mo.; Cleveland; Phoenix; Minneapolis; Portland, Ore.; Denver; Philadelphia; Sacramento, Calif.; and Seattle.
Matthew Lopez, Houston postmaster, reminds us that, “Dog attacks are a nationwide issue and not just a Postal problem.”
POSTAL CARRIER BITES BACK IN COURT
In April 2011, Postal carrier Mary Bolton was attacked by five Pit Bull-mix dogs while delivering mail to the North Carolina property of former NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield.Bolton suffered serious physical, mental, emotional and psychological problems as a result of the incident.
Bolton sued and her attorney accused Mayfield of being negligent and responsible for the attack because he allowed his Pit Bull/Labrador mixes to run around so freely. The court agreed and ruled a judgment in her favor last August, but the dollar amount was announced this week at $1 million. http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/former-nascar-driver-jeremy-mayfield-ordered-pay-1m-pit-bull-attack
PIT BULL ATTACK KILLS SAN DIEGO POSTAL CARRIER
On March 4, 2012, U.S. Postal Service letter carrier Diane Jansen died from a stroke two days after being attacked by a Pit Bull while delivering mail. Jansen had been working the same route for 5-1/2 years in Escondido, a suburb of San Diego. Medical examination determined the dog bites were a major contributing factor in her death.
“The pit bull "just shot out of the partially closed garage door” at the residence of a family with several children and inflicted severe bites to both of Jansen’s legs. No adult was home at the time. http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/pit-bull-attack-kills-san-diego-postal-carrier
WHY MORE DOGS ATTACK IN SPRING AND SUMMER
Spring and summer bring an expected increase in dog attacks as weather gets hotter and more dogs are outside. But there are other reasons why warm weather brings an upswing in danger, not only to Postal carriers, but to anyone.
If dogs are NOT spayed or neutered, Spring also begins their breeding season, with female dogs frequently escaping yards and roaming the streets, and males vying savagely for the opportunity to procreate. This creates an unsafe condition for unsuspecting adults and, especially for children, who may be seen as a “challenge” to a territorial male because of their size and often innocent, noisy approach to a mating pair.
Also, if your dog is allowed to roam the neighborhood, the size of the territory the dog “owns” and protects increases—first being only the yard and house, then the sidewalk and then expanding into blocks. This is why many dogs are followed to homes with open gates or low fences not in the immediate area after they have just committed a serious attack on a mail carrier or other victim.
DOES YOUR GOLDEN RETRIEVER TURN INTO A BULLY WHEN THE MAILMAN COMES?
Many gregarious family dogs look forward to the daily visit by the letter carrier, finding it a time to get attention by alerting you that a visitor has arrived. But even a friendly dog can become suddenly territorial. It is a good idea to confine your dog in another room if the carrier comes to your door for a special delivery or if the door is opened while the carrier is placing mail in a mailbox.
For safety’s sake, do not send a child to get the mail from the carrier in front of the dog, who may not distinguish that this person reaching toward the child is OK. Even a normally tolerant dog can become defensive or overly protective if a carrier reaches toward its owner or any family member to hand them mail.
Mail carriers also become the target of attack because they are usually moving quickly and confidently and more likely to attract a dog’s attention and stimulate its desire for a chase that may end up in serious or even fatal injuries.
DOG ATTACKS ON POSTAL CARRIERS ARE PREVENTABLE
Dog attacks can be easily avoidable if pet owners keep their dogs inside the home or confined securely in an area away from where the mail is being delivered. Keep fences repaired and gates latched or locked. If your dog has found or made a hole through which to escape, be sure it is fixed quickly—negligence is not a legal protection!
“Since we’re there every day around the same time, all they have to do is keep the dogs preferably in the house behind locked doors. If they are going to be outside, we want them well away from the mailboxes,” says Postal Carrier Ray Smith, who has been delivering mail in Cleveland’s Kinsman neighborhood for the past 18 years.
“You have to keep one eye an eye out for any loose dogs,” Smith told Fox8.com. He said he has never been bitten, but he has had some close calls. “I have been chased by a pit bull, a Rottweiler, and Doberman pinscher,” Smith said. He said a fellow postal carrier was nearly mauled by a pit bull. “Just locked on him and would not let go. So, it has been many incidents like that.”
Smith says postal carriers use their mailbag as a first line of defense, positioning it between themselves and the dog if it should attack. He said that also gives them time to pull out the pepper spray. “And, we want to be sure to get the eyes and the nose area to stop the dogs in its tracks,” Smith said.
PIT BULLS AND OTHER AGGRESSIVE-BREED DOGS POSE A SPECIAL THREAT
Pit bull attacks are on the rise because of the popularity of the breed as a “guard dog” and because many owners do not realize that maturity can bring much unexpected changes in behavior. Because of their speed, strength and persistence, attacks by Pit Bulls often result in more serious or fatal injuries to victims than most other breeds. The pepper spray carried by Postal carriers will not stop---and probably will not even phase—a Pit Bull that is in attack mode.
IF A POSTAL CARRIER FEELS THREATENED, MAIL SERVICE CAN STOP
If at any time, the postal carrier feels threatened, he or she can stop delivering mail to that home. And, if attacked, the postal carrier can sue the dog owner for any damages.
Pet owners can be held liable for all medical expenses and other cost, which could run into the thousands. The Postal Service may even consider stopping delivery to an entire area if dog issues continue to be a concern.