2005-05-13 / Columnists

From The Rockaway Postmaster’s Desk

Dog Bite Prevention Tips From The Postal Service
By George P. Buonocore

George P. Buonocore George P. Buonocore Last year, dog attacks and bites resulted in 3,423 injuries to letter carriers nationwide. That’s an average of 11 dog attacks and/ or bites every delivery day, and that figure does not include the number of threatening incidents that did not result in injury.

For every letter carrier attacked or bitten, hundreds of children needlessly suffer the pain and trauma of dog bites. Whatever the reasons for them, dog attacks and bites are a serious problem for the entire community, not just our letter carriers trying to deliver your mail. These numbers pale in comparison with the more than 4.7 million people – mostly children and elderly – who suffer injuries from dog attacks each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nearly two percent of Americans are bitten by a dog each year, and most of the victims are children.

Letter carriers encounter a significant number of instances where dogs interfere with mail delivery. Fortunately, most dog bits can be prevented through responsible pet ownership. If a letter carrier needs to interact with you, put your dog into a separate room before opening your front door. Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to get at letter carriers and strangers. Letter carriers are vigilant and dedicated, but we may be forced to stop mail delivery at an address if a letter carrier is threatened by a vicious dog. In some instances, Postal Services employees have sued and collected for dog bite injuries. We can’t control people’s dogs; only dog owners can do that.

While some attribute attacks on letter carriers to dogs’ inbred aversions to uniforms, experts say the psychology actually runs much deeper. Every day that a letter carrier comes into a dog’s territory, the dog barks and the letter carrier leaves. Day after day, the dogs see this action repeated. After a week or two, the dog appears to feel invincible against intruders. Once the dog gets loose, there’s a good chance it will attack. Dog owners should remind their children about the need to keep the family dog secured. We also recommend parents ask their children not to take mail directly from letter carriers. A dog may see handing mail to a child as a threatening gesture.

Clearly, parents must never leave a defenseless infant with a dog and must make sure that older children know the potential danger of dogs. It is also important to know that studies have shown that dogs are three times more likely to be involved in a bit incident if they have not been spayed or neutered. These simple reminders and helpful tips can reduce the hazard of dog-bite attacks. Help us to help you this spring and summer.

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