SALT LAKE CITY — Last year, 34 letter carriers for the United States Postal Service suffered dog bites while delivering mail to Utah residents.
“That’s 34 too many, and it doesn’t include the many close calls with dogs our carriers face on a daily basis,” said USPS District manager Darrell Stoke in a news release sent to FOX 13. “This has got to stop. Dog owners need to restrain their dogs and allow their carriers to deliver the mail safely. We take the safety of our employees very seriously. We will not wait until a carrier is bitten before taking preventative action.”
Of the 34 dog bites, seven of them required medical attention beyond first-aid, and seven cases resulted in letter carriers being unable to continue working for a period of time. The dog bite injuries ranged from scratches, to wounds that required several stitches to close.
“It goes anywhere from just a nip, from just a small bite that may seem insignificant, to a violent attack,” said Joseph Zane, a regional customer service supervisor. “Letter carriers have actually ended up losing their fingers.”
Sixteen of the 34 incidents in Utah occurred in Salt Lake City, which tied with Richmond, Va. at number 29 on a list of U.S. cities with the most letter carriers attacked by dogs in 2015.
The number of dog bites to letter carriers increased by 55 percent when compared to 2014. Twenty-two USPS letter carriers suffered dog bites while delivering mail in Utah that year. So far in 2016, seven letter carriers have suffered dog bites while delivering mail in Utah.
Postal carriers use their heavy canvas bags and pepper spray to help protect themselves, but carrier Dian Skougard said dog owners should take responsibility as well.
“They need to be in their yard, or in their house as long as we’re out on the street,” Skougard said. “You don’t know what they’re going to do. They’re very unpredictable.”
Zane said when customers schedule a package pick up or delivery online at http://www.usps.com, they’ll be asked whether they have a dog. Carriers will also track where dogs live through their package scanners.
“If a letter carrier feels threatened by a dog, regardless of the size, the letter carrier can choose not to deliver to that house, their mail will be held," Zane said.
Stoke shared a few tips to help prevent instances of dogs attacking letter carriers:
- If a letter carrier delivers a certified letter or a package to your front door, place your dog into a separate room and close the door before opening the front door. Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to get at strangers.
- Dog owners should remind their children about the need to keep the family dog secured. Parents should remind their children not to take mail directly from letter carriers in the presence of the family pet as the dog may see handing mail to a child as a threatening gesture.
- The USPS places the safety of its employees as a top priority. If a letter carrier feels threatened by a vicious dog or if a dog is running loose, the owner may be asked to pick up the mail at the Post Office until the carrier is assured the pet has been restrained. If the dog is roaming the neighborhood, the pet owner’s neighbors may be asked to pick up their mail at the Post Office as well.