United States Postal Service mail carriers have to put up with snow, rain, heat and gloom of night as part of their critical jobs transporting letters and parcels across the country. But that’s not the only occupational hazard they face on a daily basis.
Perhaps no everyday danger facing USPS mail carriers is more famous than the risk of a getting nipped by fido.
Each year, hundreds of mail carriers are bitten by dogs while making their rounds. In 2023 alone, 5,300 Postal Service employees were attacked, according to new numbers released by the USPS this week.
Next week, USPS will be running a public service campaign to promote “National Dog Bite Awareness Week,” which it hopes will remind residents to make sure their beloved pets are leashed up or safely locked inside the home when the postman comes knocking.
“When letter carriers deliver mail in our communities, dogs that are not secured or leashed can become a nemesis and unpredictable and attack,” said Leeann Theriault, USPS employee safety and health awareness manager. “Help us deliver your mail safely by keeping your dog secure and out of the way before your carrier arrives.”
The campaign runs this Sunday through next Saturday and this year’s theme is “Even good dogs have bad days.”
As part of Dog Bite Awareness Week, the USPS has released its list of the worst cities and states for dog bites on mail carriers.
Houston, Texas topped the list for mail carriers bit dogs in 2022. Last year, 57 mail carriers were bitten in H-Town.
Houston is one of five Texas cities to make last year’s list. Five California cities also made the list, including Los Angeles which landed second on the list of worst cities for dog bites.
The list of cities can be found below:
For the second straight year, California topped the statewide list of most dog bites on mail carriers.
Perhaps not a huge surprise for the nation’s most populous state, which has a significant number of mail carriers on foot who are less affected by the changing seasons, compared to other states.
The Top 10 worst states for mail carriers is below:
Mail carriers are well aware of the risk of being attacked by a dog, even those whose owners swear their pooch isn’t aggressive and has no history of biting.
“When our mail carriers are bitten, it is usually a ‘good dog’ that had not previously behaved in a menacing way,” said USPS Occupational Safety and Health Senior Director Linda DeCarlo. “In 2022, too many aggressive dogs impacted the lives of our employees while delivering the mail. Please help us reduce that number by being a responsible pet owner who secures their dog as we deliver the mail.”
The USPS acknowledges that dogs tend to protect their homes, but it’s the owners that are being asked to take a more proactive role in protecting your friendly neighborhood mail carrier.
When a delivery person comes to your house, it’s best to make sure your dog is secured inside the home or behind a fence, away from the door or in another room, or kept on a leash while your letters are being dropped off. Deliveries usually come around the same time each day, so it’s a good idea to make note of the typical delivery window and plan accordingly.
Pet owners with children are also urged to remind their kids not to take mail directly from a letter carrier, as the dogs might view them as a threat to their smaller, younger human.
Another free and easy way to avoid any run-ins between your dog and mail carrier is to sign up for the USPS Informed Delivery service, which will send you emails about your incoming deliveries and what to expect to find in your mailbox.
Mail carriers have tools to remind them of dogs on their routes and they’re trained to avoid bites as best they can, but they still happen with regularity. If aggressive dogs become too much of an issue, the USPS might opt to no longer deliver your mail to your home — meaning you’ll have to go down to your nearest Post Office to get your mail.
If you need any more reason to maintain a good, healthy relationship between your dog and your mail carrier, it’s also important to note that medical expenses caused from an unexpected bite will more than likely fall to the dog owner. In short, if your dog bites a USPS employee, get your checkbook ready.
By taking necessary and simple precautions, USPS said dog owners can reduce the chance of their pets grabbing a bite of a mail carrier.
“Dog bites are entirely preventable,” Postal Service officials say. “One bite is one too many.”