Even Good Dogs Have Bad Days
It was a typical, sunny summer day. I arrived at my delivery unit at 8:00 am like I do every morning, and after double casing and loading that day’s mail and packages into the mail van, I was ready to hit my route at my regular 8:45 a.m. start time. Deliveries were going as scheduled, and the familiar faces were as friendly as they are every day.
As I entered one property, I knew there would be a dog growling behind the fence. The dog knew me, and I knew the dog, so I kept my distance and stayed aware of its presence. But that day, the dog had a different idea. Suddenly, out of nowhere, it attacked.
Dog attacks are a daily hazard for postal workers and one of the biggest causes of injury for mail carriers. Last year alone, more than 5,300 postal employees were attacked by dogs while delivering mail. The previous year, we had more than 5,400 reported attacks. That’s roughly 15 attacks every single day of the year — Sundays included — for two years in a row.
One bite is one too many. The sad fact is these attacks are entirely preventable.
Every year, postal carriers are trained to interact with dogs; we respect their territory and are constantly vigilant of potential dangers. We are taught essential skills and learn to keep our eyes on a dog, make sure we don’t startle them, never assume that a dog will not bite, avoid unnecessary noises, and never feed or pet a dog.
We are also trained to defend ourselves against a canine attack by standing our ground and placing something between us and the dog.
This annual training saved me from serious harm when I was attacked. The dog was large and aggressive, and even though it was contained, it still managed to jump over a 4-foot-plus fence and charge me. Thankfully, I stayed aware of the dog from the moment I entered the property, and when it attacked, I remembered not to run but to turn and use my satchel as a shield to prevent what could have been a terrible bite. Thankfully, I was uninjured, but my satchel was shredded before the dog lost interest and jumped back over the fence.
I consider myself lucky, as a determined dog is tough to fend off. That is why dog owners are the most crucial aspect of dog safety, as their actions will ultimately determine if a dog can get near a mail carrier.
There are several ways dog owners can avoid attacks, and USPS is committed to educating our customers about responsible pet ownership. One of our most prominent initiatives is the annual National Dog Bite Awareness Week campaign.
This year’s campaign emphasizes the simple steps dog owners can take to ensure safe mail delivery. For instance, when a letter carrier comes to your home, please keep your dog inside the house, always away from the front door and preferably in another room. You can also put your dog behind a fence or on a leash, although, as I know all too well, owners need to be aware that their dog may be able to jump a fence, so please take the option that best secures your dog.
There are also some amazing tools from USPS that can help you plan ahead. I certainly recommend signing up for our Informed Delivery® feature, as it gives you a preview of what items are being delivered that day right to your mobile phone, tablet, or computer. This is an amazing — and free — way to know if your carrier might come to your door that day.
Our goal as carriers is to deliver the nation’s mail and packages safely and securely, but we can only do that if we are safe and secure. That is why campaigns like National Dog Bite Awareness Week are so important. If you are a dog owner, please take a few moments to visit our website to discover some of the best ways you can secure your dog and minimize attacks.
You’ll also find out how to sign up for Informed Delivery® and our other free tools, like our Package Pickup application on usps.com, where you can tell us whether to expect a dog at your address. By working together, we can make mail delivery safer. And please, spread the word by using the hashtag #dogbiteawareness.
USPS Letter Carrier