USPS technology helps prevent dog bites

Number of incidents reduced, but further improvement still needed

information provided by the United States Postal Service

BEDFORD PARK, Ill. (April 11, 2019) – The number of U.S. Postal Service employees attacked by dogs nationwide fell to 5,714 in 2018—more than 500 fewer than in 2017 and more than 1,000 fewer since 2016. Still, in the Central Illinois District, 125 carriers were attacked in 2018, noted Tangela Bush Central Illinois District Manager.

“Our employees have been great at taking preventative measures against dog attacks, but they need help from our customers, too,” said USPS Safety Director Linda DeCarlo. “We are confident we can keep moving the trends of attacks downward, and ramping up overall awareness for everyone is the best way to do that.”

Unleashing new technology

According to Bush, technology supports carrier safety in several ways:

  • Mobile Delivery Devices—the hand-held scanners used by carriers to confirm customer delivery—now include a feature to indicate the presence of a dog at an individual address. The Package Pickup application at usps.com asks customers to indicate if dogs are at their address when they schedule package pickups, which allows USPS to send alerts to those scanners.
  • At the mailbox, some dog owners may see a high-tech notice from the Postal Service. A 3-D printed postcard uses the latest in printing technology to command the attention of postal customers whose dogs may pose a risk.
  • Postal officials also note that a new interactive map shows where dog attacks on letter carriers occurred in 2018. This map will be used to educate communities and customers about trends in dog bites nationwide.

Learned responses

Many mail carriers have stories of dog bites, attacks, and near misses. USPS offers these examples from real carriers around the nation:

  • Regina R.—Regina is a regular letter carrier who was delivering to an address where she had never had a previous problem with the dog. The house had a mail slot at the front door. As Regina was bending down to put mail through, she noticed the door was ajar, and that’s when a dog came charging at her. She was able to pull the door shut and keep it closed. There was glass near the door, and the dog charged the glass and broke it with its head. The homeowner rushed to see what was going on. Regina immediately notified her supervisor and explained the situation. Within days, the homeowner put a mailbox in the front of his house. 
  • Angela B.—On Angela’s route, a large dog was off leash when he charged after her. She did not deliver to the home and alerted her supervisor. In a separate incident, she walked toward a house with a dog sitting on the front porch. Thankfully, a leash prohibited it from attacking. Again, she did not deliver to the home and alerted her supervisor.
  • Michael C.—Michael was in the back of his truck sorting mail when a dog got loose from its owner and jumped into the truck, biting Michael on the wrist. The dog was on a leash, but the owner had been texting on a cell phone and was not able to hang on to the leash when the dog charged away. Michael went to a hospital and received 10 stitches after this attack.

Safety tips for dog owners

The Postal Service offers the following safety tips for dog owners:

  • When 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. Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate glass windows to attack visitors.
  • Parents should remind children and other family members not to take mail directly from carriers in the presence of the family pet. The dog may view the carrier handing mail to a family member as a threatening gesture.

If a carrier feels threatened by a dog, or if a dog is loose or unleashed, the owner may be asked to pick up mail at a Post Office or other facility until the carrier is assured the pet has been restrained. If the dog is roaming the neighborhood, the pet owner’s neighbors also may be asked to pick up their mail at the area’s Post Office.

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