Gainesville postal officials recently sent a reminder about “National Dog Bite Prevention Week,” which began Sunday, spans through Saturday and is sponsored by the United States Postal Service.
Letter carriers, who travel by foot and visit many residences in a day’s shift, regularly risk being attacked by dogs that have been poorly restrained by their owners. And as spring and summer carry on, the local number of dogs kept outside is on the increase.
“Last year, 5,900 dog attacks occurred to our letter carriers, which is an average of 10 dog attacks each day,” said Gainesville postmaster Billy Scott in a recent statement, referring to a national estimate. “However, this number does not include all of the threatening incidents that did not result in injury.”
Scott admitted the estimate of 5,900 attacks is minor compared to the roughly 2 million people — often children and senior citizens — who sustain dog attacks each year.
And the U.S. Postal Service is not anti-dog, he added, but pro-responsibility.
“If your dog does bite or attack someone, you could be held liable for the victim’s pain, suffering and medical expenses,” he said.
The local postmaster said the city of Gainesville includes problematic dogs that “cause problems” for letter carriers and interfere with mail deliveries on a regular basis.
“Every day, your pet sees a letter carrier come into their territory and the dog barks and the letter carrier leaves,” he said. “Day after day, the dog sees this action repeated. If a letter carrier needs to deliver a certified letter or a package to you, we ask that you put your dog into a separate room before opening your front door. Once the dog gets loose, there’s a good chance it will attack.”
Scott said the phrase “dog attack” is broad and applies to everything from a painless nip to a fatal mauling. He added that the number of carriers bitten by dogs on a national basis has declined through the years, due to improved cooperation from dog owners, increasingly strict leash laws and better efforts to educate letter carriers and the public about dealing with the problem.
“Reducing the likelihood your dog will ever bite someone helps protect you, your canine companion and everyone in the community,” he said. “We can’t control dogs; only dog owners can.”
Scott also requested that adult pet owners remind their children about keeping the family dog secured.
“We also recommend parents talk to their children about not taking mail directly from letter carriers, as dogs may see handing mail to a child as a threatening gesture,” he said.