Dog at­tacks on mail carriers hits 6,755

Rise in on­line sales cor­re­lates to bites

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY HOPE YEN

Boom­ing on­line re­tail sales are good news for the U.S. Postal Ser­vice, but its carriers are in­cur­ring a cost: more dog bites. Dog at­tacks on postal work­ers rose last year to 6,755, up 206 from the pre­vi­ous year and the high­est in three decades, as in­ter­net shop­ping booms and con­sumers in­creas­ingly de­mand sev­en­day-a-week pack­age de­liv­ery and gro­ceries dropped at their doorstep. The high for at­tacks dated back to the 1980s, at more than 7,000, be­fore maul­ings by pit bulls and other po­ten­tially ag­gres­sive dogs be­came a public is­sue.

Los An­ge­les topped the 2016 list with 80 at­tacks on postal work­ers, fol­lowed by Hous­ton with 62 and Cleve­land with 60.

The Postal Ser­vice re­leased its an­nual fig­ures Thurs­day as part of Na­tional Dog Bite Pre­ven­tion Week, which be­gins Sun­day.

A long­time cliche of movies, dog bit­ing of mail carriers — or at least dog chas­ing — is no laugh­ing mat­ter for the post office. Med­i­cal ex­penses and work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion cost the Postal Ser­vice mil­lions of dol­lars each year.

Over­all, an es­ti­mated 4.5 mil­lion Amer­i­cans are bit­ten by dogs an­nu­ally, mostly chil­dren. In the last year, dog at­tacks on carriers rose 3 per­cent. Still, while dog bite claims are ris­ing, there are signs at­tacks may be less se­vere: The av­er­age cost per claim fell last year by more than 10 per­cent to $33,230, ac­cord­ing to the In­sur­ance In­for­ma­tion In­sti­tute and State Farm.

“It’s al­ways on your mind as a car­rier, ‘Is there a dog in the area and is it a threat?”’ said James Solomon, who has been a postal car­rier for 17 years. Of­fi­cially, 2 per­cent of carriers were bit­ten last year, but Mr. Solomon says ev­ery car­rier he knows has some kind of “dog ex­pe­ri­ence” to tell, from out­run­ning to ca­jol­ing a ter­ri­to­rial pet.

The post office hopes more public aware­ness will help.

Af­ter a 14 per­cent jump in dog at­tacks in 2015, the post office launched a “Trip Haz­ards” app on hand­held de­vices to help warn carriers of po­ten­tially hos­tile dogs. Cus­tomers are asked on pack­age pickup ap­pli­ca­tions if there are dogs at their ad­dresses. In ex­treme cases, res­i­dents will be told to pick up mail at a post office un­til a re­peat of­fender dog is re­strained.

“Even good dogs have bad days,” said U.S. Postal Ser­vice Safety Direc­tor Linda DeCarlo in Los An­ge­les. “Dog bite pre­ven­tion train­ing and con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion are im­por­tant to keep pet own­ers, pets and those who visit homes — like let­ter carriers — happy and healthy.”

She urges own­ers to se­cure their dogs in a sep­a­rate room be­fore open­ing the door and to re­mind fam­ily mem­bers not to take mail di­rectly from let­ter carriers in front of their dog, which may view it as a threat­en­ing ges­ture.

Ris­ing dog at­tacks come amid dou­ble-digit in­creases in the post office’s pack­age business. While U.S. pop­u­la­tion growth means more res­i­dences to de­liver to, postal carriers are also visiting homes more fre­quently and at all times of day, with pack­ages or gro­ceries in hand, thanks to agree­ments struck with Ama­zon in 2013 and 2014.

United Par­cel Ser­vice said its 66,000 de­liv­er­ers suf­fered about 900 dog bites last year, a per­cent­age that has re­mained fairly sta­ble. Spokesman Dan McMackin, a for­mer UPS driver who used to carry dog bis­cuits to woo surly pets, said he found pit bulls and smaller dog breeds to be more net­tle­some than “hunt­ing dogs” — such as Labrador re­triev­ers and bea­gles — who “don’t have much to prove.”

FedEx Corp. said it does not col­lect numbers on dog at­tacks.

Mr. Solomon, who lives in Hat­boro, Penn­syl­va­nia, said he thought he had learned all the tricks to pre­vent at­tacks: watch the dog’s man­ner­isms, use the mail satchel as a shield, or pull out the emer­gency dog spray if needed — it con­tains an ex­tract of cayenne pep­per.

But last week, those safe­guards weren’t enough when a woman an­swered his knock.

“It was three lit­tle hot dogs who came out and bit me on the shin,” Mr. Solomon said, de­scrib­ing dachshunds. “It didn’t hurt that much, but it was very ag­gres­sive, one af­ter the other.”

Robert Lieb, a pro­fes­sor of sup­ply chain man­age­ment at North­east­ern Univer­sity, said he ex­pects dog at­tacks to keep in­creas­ing. Still, the on­line in­dus­try con­tin­ues to change, and dogs may prove to be less of a prob­lem if Ama­zon changes its de­liv­ery to a new method: drones.

“The ques­tion is whether drones will land or para­chute the pack­ages down,” said Mr. Lieb, a for­mer ship­ping con­sul­tant. “I would see ea­gles, not dogs, tak­ing out drones.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A pit bull named Lucy par­tic­i­pates a the U.S. Postal Ser­vice “Na­tional Dog Bite Pre­ven­tion Week” dur­ing an event in at in Los An­ge­les on Thurs­day. Dog at­tacks on postal work­ers rose last year to 6,755 up 206 from 2015. This is the high­est it’s been in three decades. The num­ber has been tied to an in­crease in in­ter­net shop­ping and de­mand for seven-day-a-week pack­age de­liv­ery.

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