(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.
The Paw Program which has been instituted in several cities across the U.S. since it was rolled out in 2020, uses a color-coded system to inform carriers who may not be familiar with the route which houses have dogs. A yellow paw sticker means that there is a dog living nearby, while an orange indicates that there is a dog living at that home.
“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.
The Paw Program is going into effect not just in Lakewood but across 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.”
The USPS is releasing those statistics as part of its National Dog Bite Awareness Week, which starts 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.”
Cities and states with the most bites
When it comes to the communities with the most bites, the number of attacks appears to be closely tied to the size of the population. Houston led the nation’s cities with 57 in 2022, while the most bite-prone state was California.
When it comes to states, the top 10 are:
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. They also have dog repellent if the situation warrants it.
“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.”
There are other things the USPS urges residents to do to help keep both the carrier and the dog safe.
Since mail carriers come by on a regular route, dog owners can often plan for their arrival by making sure their dogs are securely put up inside the house. Using a leash, putting the dog in a room away from the door or making sure they are behind a fence are good safety steps.
The USPS also warns that pet owners should remind their children not to take mail directly from a letter carrier, who the dog could see as a threat to the child.