(NEXSTAR) – More than 5,300 mail carriers were bitten by dogs last year, a number the USPS is trying to bring down with a push for public awareness as well as a clever, if simple, sticker-based program.
A color-coded system is used by the Paw Program, which was implemented in many cities in the U.S. in 2020. It helps carriers who are unfamiliar with the route to identify houses that have dogs. A yellow paw indicates that a dog is living near the home, whereas an orange paw indicates that a dog is living in that house.
“We do send out little cards, which tells them that we would like to place a little sticker on their mailbox,” Lakewood, Ohio Post Office manager Tracy Carter told Nexstar’s WJW.
The Paw Program will be implemented not only in Lakewood, but throughout the Greater Cleveland Area.
“Cleveland ranked number four in the country, we had 43 dog bites,” Carter said. “That may not seem like a lot, but 43 employees got injured.”
USPS releases these statistics in conjunction with its National Dog Bite Awareness Week that begins on Sunday. The theme for 2023: “Even good dogs have bad days.”
“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.”
Most bites in cities and states
The number of bites in a community appears to be directly related to its population. Houston led the nation’s cities with 57 in 2022, while the most bite-prone state was California.
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The top 10 states are:
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Mail carriers are trained to watch out for potentially dangerous conditions and to respect a dog’s territory, but if a dog does attack, they are told to stand their ground and protect themselves with an object — such as a mail satchel — they can put between them and the animal’s mouth. If the situation calls for it, they also carry dog repellent.
“Recently, I was delivering to a customer’s mailbox and was nearly bitten by their large aggressive dog,” said Swain Lowe, a letter carrier in Manassas, Virginia. “Despite the dog being behind a fence, it still managed to jump over and charge me. Thankfully, I was aware of it and remembered not to run but to turn and use my satchel as a shield to prevent what could have been a terrible bite.”
The USPS also urges residents to take other precautions to keep the dog and the carrier safe.
Dog owners can plan ahead for mail carriers’ arrivals by ensuring their dogs are safely confined inside the home. Safety measures include using a leash and putting your dog in a separate room from the front door.
USPS advises that owners of pets should tell their children not accept mail directly from letter carriers, because the dogs may see them as a potential threat.