Los Angeles and California rank high in the U.S. Postal Service’s list of dog attacks on mail carriers last year, according to figures released by the agency this week.
Los Angeles is third on the list of 47 cities, with 59 USPS employees being attacked by dogs in 2020, while California is first with 782. That was up from 777 in 2019.
Houston and Chicago are ahead of Los Angeles in the ranking, while Texas and Ohio follow California in the states category.
Nationwide, more than 5,800 postal employees were attacked by dogs in 2020.
The national rankings are released as the USPS’ National Dog Bite Awareness Week is underway, with this year’s theme being “Be Aware: Any Dog Can Bite.” The campaign aims to raise awareness that dog bites are preventable and “one bite is one too many” by also using the hashtag #dogbiteawareness.
“From nips and bites to vicious attacks, aggressive dog behavior poses a serious threat to postal employees and the general public,” the USPS said in a news release about the campaign.
The agency reminds dog owners that they are responsible for controlling their dogs and making sure their pets are secured as a carrier approaches their property.
Owners are also encouraged to remind their children not to take mail or packages directly from a mail carrier because a dog might view the employee as a threat.
When a letter carrier comes to a home, owners are asked to keep dogs inside the house or behind a fence, away from the door or in another room or on a leash, the USPS advised.
Meanwhile, letter carriers are trained to observe an area where they know dogs might be present.
They know to be alert for possible dangerous conditions and to respect an animal’s territory, and even have a dog alert feature on their handheld scanners that can remind them of a possible dog hazard. Workers also have dog warning cards as reminders that a dog may interfere with delivery.
USPS workers know not to startle a dog, to keep their eyes on a dog and not to assume a dog won’t bite.
If carriers are entering a yard, they know to make some kind of noise to alert the dog.
In the event of an actual attack, mail carriers are trained to stand their ground and protect their body by placing something between them and the animal, and use repellent if necessary.
“Even though postal officials ask customers to control their dogs, unfortunately dog bites still happen, which may cause injuries to our carriers and costly medical expenses for dog owners,” the USPS states.
In one example, a mail carrier in Kansas said he was recently attacked by a dog even though he follows dog bite safety protocols while on his route. He called the incident one of the most terrifying moments of his life.
“I knocked on a customer’s door to pick up a package and as a young child answered, a dog came bursting out of the door and bit my forearm, knocking me to the ground,” James Michael Benson said. “I was in shock and struggling with the dog, when he lunged and bit me again on my face, under my ear.”
He added that the attack happened so fast and was so forceful, he couldn’t get to his repellent. The dog was eventually restrained by its owner.
Residents are reminded that if a carrier feels unsafe, mail service could be interrupted, not only for the dog owner, but for the entire neighborhood.
Service will not be restored until a troublesome dog is property restrained.
“We have pets too, we love our pets, too, and they’re a part of the family just like everybody else,” Richard Alonso, Garden Grove’s postmaster, said Wednesday.
“We’re just asking you to be responsible, that’s all we’re asking. Because in doing so, it keeps our employees safe and allows our employees to go home unharmed.”