Can you picture a member of your family attacking a mail carrier? Of course not, but it happened 5,803 times last year across the nation. One Hundred and Twenty of those in Massachusetts.
Letter Carrier Alfonse Jahaj recalls being bitten on the leg recently. “The customer didn’t realize the dog was behind her and, as soon as she opened the screen door, he flew out,” Jahaj reported. “I’m constantly aware now of where the dogs are when I’m delivering,” said Jahaj. He’ll ask the customer, “can you please keep the dog indoors?” And, while many reply “don’t worry, he won’t bite”, he realizes now that any dog, even the tamer ones, will bite if they believe their turf or family is threatened.
When a dog attacks a letter carrier, the dog owner could be held liable for all medical expenses, repayment of lost work hours, replacement of the uniform and other costs, which can run into thousands of dollars. The Postal Service places the safety of its employees as a top priority and dedicates a week each year to Dog Bite Awareness.
Here are a four simple tips to prevent dog bite injuries that should be enforced all year round:
Door Delivery: If a carrier delivers mail or packages to your front door, place your dog in a separate room and close that door before opening the front door. Some dogs burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to attack visitors. Dog owners should keep the family pet secured. Parents should remind their children and other family members not to take mail directly from carriers in the presence of the family pet, as the dog may view the person handing mail to a family member as a threatening gesture.
Electronic Fencing: Carriers may assume, when they see no physical fence around a property, the property is animal-free. This can be a dangerous mistake. Postal Service officials request that you keep your dog restrained or inside when the mail is delivered. Although the electronic fence may keep your dog from wandering, it does not protect your Postal Service carrier, who must enter your property to deliver the mail. Even homes with curbside mailboxes may have oversize packages or signature-needed items that require the carrier to approach a doorstep and cross the boundaries of the electronic fence. This poses a serious risk to carrier safety.
Dog in Yard: Make sure your dog is properly restrained on a leash away from where your mail carrier is delivering the mail. Mail delivery service can be interrupted at an address or neighborhood the carrier deems unsafe because of an unrestrained dog. When service is interrupted at an address or neighborhood, all parties involved will have to pick mail up at their local Post Office. Service will be restored once assurance has been given that the animal will be confined during regular delivery hours.
Tracking: Dog owners who have access to postal features such as Informed Delivery notifications (informeddelivery.usps.com) for letter mail and package tracking are urged to use this as a way to gauge when the carrier is on their way and to ensure dogs are properly restrained. Expecting a postal package delivery on Sunday? Postal Service officials urge dog owners to restrain their animals on Sundays as well, as more residences are receiving deliveries throughout the weekend.
The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.