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News / Life / Pets & Wildlife

Washington ranks high in reported dog attacks on mail carriers in 2022. Tacoma had 10; Vancouver had 2

By Karlee Van De Venter, Tri-City Herald
Published: June 9, 2023, 7:29am

KENNEWICK — In order to protect mail carriers, the U.S. Postal Service is working to raise awareness of the frequency in which carriers are attacked by dogs. There were 5,300 attacks reported in 2022, with the most occurring in California at 675.

Out of all 50 states, Washington state ranks 11th for most dog attacks against USPS workers in 2022, with 136 reported. Workers for the Pasco Post Office were attacked by dogs ten times in 2022, according to figures from the USPS released in early June.

By comparison, Seattle and Spokane both reported 13 attacks in 2022, Tacoma reported ten, Vancouver reported two and Bellevue reported one.

Kim Frum, senior public relations representative for the USPS, told the Herald that six attacks were reported in West Richland in 2022, and none in Kennewick. The attacks in Pasco were all on different mail routes and varied in severity from no noticeable injuries to necessary medical attention and time off work.

In light of these statistics, and National Dog Bite Awareness Week taking place from June 4 to June 10 this year, Washington state USPS district is asking dog owners to be vigilant and responsible.

“Dog owners are responsible for controlling their dogs,” stated Donald Kravos, acting Washington District Manager, in a press release. “The best way to keep everyone safe from dog bites is to recognize and promote responsible pet ownership.”

Prepare dogs for mail carriers

The USPS is asking people to take a “few extra moments of precaution” by noting when their mail carrier tends to arrive. If you know the general time frame mail carriers are at your house, you can prepare before mail is delivered. USPS asks that you secure your dogs before mail delivery, either in another room away from the door, on a leash or behind a fence.

It’s important to remember that even the friendliest dogs bite sometimes. Don’t succumb to the idea that your dog would never bite anyone, no matter how well-behaved they are. Dogs are protective by nature and will try to defend their home and family from perceived threats.

In fact, Frum said in an email to McClatchy that many dog attacks toward mail carriers happen after owners repeatedly swear their dog doesn’t bite.

If you have young kids, your dog may have seen the kids accept mail from a carrier. This can often make dogs defensive toward delivery people. Even more than adults, dogs can see this as a potential threat to their family.

That’s why the 2023 theme for Dog Bite Awareness Week is “Even Good Dogs have Bad Days.”

The USPS press release states that even one bite is too many.

How mail carriers prepare for dogs

The USPS also trains its mail carriers in response and prevention regarding dog attacks.

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  • Preventing attacks

Carriers have scanners with them on their routes, and they can mark where “potentially dangerous dogs” are located. Then, next time they’re on that route, the scanner will warn them.

The USPS trains its staff to never startle dogs they encounter, but keep an eye on them during delivery. They’re told to make noise when entering a yard, in order to alert the dog beforehand.

  • Responding to an attack

USPS workers are trained to stand their ground in the event of an attack, rather than running away. They’re taught to put something between their body and the dog for protection, like a mail satchel.

Some mail carriers even deliver with dog repellent on hand, just in case. The repellent used has 0.35% cayenne pepper extract and 99.65% mineral oil. The effects last between 10 and 15 minutes, then the dog returns to normal. There may be a yellow stain around the area, but this can be washed.

If it gets bad enough that a mail carrier feels unsafe, service can be halted to the entire neighborhood, forcing everyone to pick up their mail at the post office. Service can continue when the aggressive dog in question is properly restrained, according to USPS.

If a mail carrier is injured by your dog, you could end up paying for medical expenses, time off work and uniform replacement. This can add up to be pretty expensive. Frum said some of the Pasco attacks led to required medical attention and time off work.