A recent uptick in violent dog encounters, some of which resulted in injuries, has given county postal carriers cause for alarm.
“We’re very concerned about the recent dog bites to our carriers, and the many close calls our carriers face on a daily basis,” Marion Postmaster Lori Kelsey said. “These dog encounters have got to stop.”
One instance involved a dog that allegedly forced open a door and bit a carrier in the 200 block of Miller St. in Marion, Kelsey said, while another attack allegedly involved a rural route carrier who did not see or hear the dog until stepping out of the vehicle. In both cases, dogs’ teeth broke the carriers’ skin, she said.
“They had to go in for medical attention,” Kelsey said. “My carriers are fine, but we’re frustrated. We’re asking pet owners to restrain their dogs and allow our letter carriers to deliver mail safely.”
A third carrier had a close call in Peabody, where Kelsey said the carrier was almost bitten when a dog broke a glass window but was restrained by the screen while attempting to get to the carrier.
“It was the same dog that bit another carrier last year,” Kelsey said.
She doesn’t think people realize that dog bites can be costly for dog owners, who she said could be held liable for all medical expenses and other costs.
Clinton Jeffrey, assistant chief at Marion Police Department, said dog owners are usually issued a citation or warning depending on the severity of the injury and if the animal is a first time offender.
“The animal is placed on a 10-day supervisory period where it is watched for any signs of odd behavior such as rabies,” he said.
Police also check to make sure the animal is current on all shots.
If the dog is a repeat offender, the animal would be labeled as a ‘vicious animal’ and more restrictions would be put in place, Jeffrey said.
“The dog might be required to leave the city or even need to be euthanized, but we don’t deal with vicious animals very often,” he said. “None of the animals were considered vicious. I believe most dogs were aggressive toward mail deliverers.”
Nevertheless, because of the persistent threat certain dogs pose to mail carriers, Kelsey said she is requiring two blocks of homeowners to put their mailboxes at the curb.
“I apologize to our customers but with these threats we can’t take any chances,” Kelsey said.
She shared some tips for dog owners for the way dogs should be handled regarding postal carriers.
She recommended dogs be closed in a separate room before a door is opened to receive a package or provide a signature.
Children should be reminded to keep a family dog secured, and not to take mail directly from carriers in the dog’s presence because some dogs may see the act as a threatening gesture.
She also said that if a postal carrier feels threatened by a dog or if a dog is running loose, the owner may be asked to pick up mail at the post office until the carrier has been assured the pet has been restrained.
If a dog is roaming the neighborhood, the pet owner’s neighbors might also be asked to pick their mail up at the post office, Kelsey said.