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  • Last modified 17 days ago (April 3, 2019)

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We've literally gone to the dogs

When government barks, people get bit. Look no further than the first three blocks of N. Roosevelt St. for proof.

Despite no reported bites and no reported attempts to enforce ordinances that require every dog to be leashed or kept within its yard, three entire blocks are being deprived of normal city mail service because of what appears to be one dog, the identity of which seems to be a state secret.

Truth is, Fido probably has a rap sheet. Nationwide, despite declining numbers of dog-bite cases, the Postal Service is so concerned about worker’s compensation claims that it keeps files on dogs, either at the post office or inside those mysterious green mailboxes you can’t put letters in.

The very official looking PS Form 1778, entitled “Dog Warning Card,” bears the words “DANGEROUS DOG” in all capital letters and underlined and lists, on the back, a record of every time a letter carrier has been barked at or viewed askance by that particular canine.

There’s even a requirement in postal regulations that, if the dog owner moves, the card is automatically forwarded to his or her new address. It sounds a bit like the registry system for convicted sex offenders, only more robust and less open to public inspection.

That means people in the first three blocks of N. Roosevelt St. — and a growing number of streets similarly impacted — can’t do what they should do:

— Head on over to “thank” whatever dog owner is breaking the law so flagrantly as to give the Postal Service an excuse to penalize neighbors who live so far away they probably don’t even know him or her.

— Call police, who are supposed to be enforcing the law but already are chided by their deputy sheriff and Highway Patrol colleagues that the job is more suited to that of a dog catcher than police officer.

Or maybe, just maybe, Fido’s rap sheet might reveal that the Postal Service is overreacting, wanting, like many in the political world do, to build a wall — not to close the U.S.-Mexico border but to isolate some innocently yapping mutt.

Stories like this usually have heroes and villains, and there are plenty of candidates to go around: a potentially unneighborly neighbor who thinks he or she is above the law, letter carriers and their bosses who think they are the law, and police officers who would just as soon not have to enforce a law.

The people unconscionably losing out are those who have to invest in rural mailboxes, travel to the post office to get their mail, or risk having an even greater percentage of their mail delayed, sent to a different address, or returned as undeliverable. They could write their congressman about it, but the letter probably wouldn’t get through.

Overreaction is all too often the automatic response whenever government is involved. It hasn’t happened locally to our knowledge, but nationwide there are tales of residences being banned from mail delivery even years after the dogs that used to live there died.

That brings us to the final victim in all of this: Fido himself. Dogs bark at letter carriers and others not because they are vicious but because they are protective and want to alert their extended family, including owners, to what they regard as a threat.

Is their behavior sometimes boorish and disproportionate to the actual threat? Absolutely! Just as it is boorish and disproportionate for the Postal Service to ban door-to-door delivery over a wide area because of one, perhaps exaggerated threat that could have been dealt with in other ways.

Dogs can be forgiven such behavior. They aren’t, after all, thinking human beings who recognize a community obligation to overreact.

The Postal Service apparently is much the same, proving this truly a dog-eat-dog world.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified April 3, 2019

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