April 14 to 20 is Dog Bite Prevention Week. It’s a time for postal employees to brush up on safety methods to ensure they don’t get bitten by a dog during their route.
In 2018, there were nearly 6,000 postal employees attacked by dogs nationwide. About 54 of the attacks happened in Western New York.
Those numbers have declined significantly over the years due to measures postal workers have taken to ensure their safety.
“You will run across some bad dogs and they’re just trying to protect the territories or the family and some customers don’t know that,” Christopher Withey, a letter carrier and safety captain for USPS, said. “We make out cards for them with special instructions just to keep the carriers safe.”
The cards include the address of the house where the dog is, the breed of the dog and special instructions on how to approach the home safely.
Even the friendliest of dogs could become territorial when a stranger approaches the front door.
“I’ve seen dogs actually pop screen doors open,” Withey said. “I’ve actually seen them bust through glass windows, so I mean, a good size dog can do a lot of damage.”
Some of the methods mail carriers use to protect themselves when dogs attack include a spray that contains mineral oil and cayenne pepper to scare the dog long enough so the mail carrier can get back into their vehicle safely. The spray is SPCA approved and will not hurt the dog.
Another method is to swing their satchel to the front in order to prevent the dog from biting.
If mail carriers run into an issue with a pet more than once, a warning letter is sent to the homeowner stating that suspension of mail services will occur if there is no safe mail delivery point.
Those who have dogs can help by putting the dog in a separate room and closing the door before opening the front door for the mail carrier. If the dog outside, make sure it is leashed at a reasonable distance from the mailbox.
These simple steps can help keep mail carriers and furry friends safe year round. USPS would like to Craig Spencer with Elmira Animal Control for assisting them whenever they need help with dogs in the area and other safety tips.