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Dog attacks on Postal Service employees increased last year

The organization’s annual awareness campaign begins June 2

A letter carrier uses his mail satchel to block an attack from a dog.
Timothy “T.J.” Jackson, a Linthicum Heights, MD, letter carrier, shows how carriers can use their satchel to protect themselves from aggressive dogs.

More than 5,800 Postal Service employees were attacked by dogs last year, up from around 5,300 cases the year before, according to data released as part of the latest USPS National Dog Bite Awareness Campaign.

The annual campaign — which begins Sunday, June 2, and concludes Sunday, June 9 — aims to offer crucial information on how dog owners can ensure the safety of Postal Service employees who deliver the mail.

“Letter carriers are exposed to potential hazards every day, none more prevalent than a canine encounter. All it takes is one interaction for a letter carrier to possibly suffer an injury,” said Leeann Theriault, the USPS employee safety and health awareness manager.

“The Postal Service consistently encourages responsible pet ownership. The national dog bite campaign is an effort to promote dog bite awareness to keep our customers, their dogs and letter carriers safe during mail delivery.”

Among major cities, Los Angeles led with 65 cases involving dog attacks on USPS employees, followed by Houston (56), Chicago (48), St. Louis (46) and Cleveland (44).

California reported 727 attacks, followed by Texas (411), Ohio (359), Pennsylvania (334) and Illinois (316).

During the campaign, the Postal Service is reminding customers to keep dogs inside their homes, behind a fence or on a leash. Customers are also encouraged to use USPS Informed Delivery, a service that provides digital previews of incoming mail and packages, which can allow dog owners to anticipate when their carrier will arrive.

The organization is reminding employees to stay vigilant when they know dogs may be present.

USPS trains letters carriers to:

• Make a nonthreatening noise or rattle a fence to alert a dog if entering a yard;

• Never startle a dog;

• Keep their eyes on any dog;

• Never assume a dog will not bite;

• Never attempt to pet or feed a dog; and

• Place their foot against an outward swinging door to prevent a dog from escaping.

If a dog attacks, carriers are also trained to stand their ground and protect their body by placing something — such as a mail satchel — between them and the dog and to use dog repellent, if necessary.

“Even though a customer’s dog is friendly to most people, it can always have a bad day,” said Tara Snyder, a Nesquehoning, PA, letter carrier who was attacked by a dog.

“I know from experience that even when a dog is in the house, customers need to make sure their door is secure so their dog can’t push it open and bite the letter carrier.”

USPS offers tools to alert carriers to dogs on their routes.

A feature on handheld scanners can remind carriers of a possible dog hazard, and warning cards must be used during mail sorting to alert carriers to addresses where a dog may interfere with delivery.