The United States Postal Service released on Thursday its annual ranking of cities with the most dog attacks on its employees, to call attention to safety precautions pet owners should take.
The total number of dog attacks on postal workers jumped more than 200, from 6,549 in 2015 to 6,755 in 2016. Los Angeles, with 80 reported attacks, topped the list of dog attacks by city.
“Some of these carriers are just never the same after that. If you’ve experienced a dog attack, even little kids, they’re then afraid of dogs,” U.S. Postal Service safety director Linda DeCarlo told Yahoo News.
DeCarlo lamented that a negative experience like that could rob people of otherwise great bonds with man’s best friend, emphasizing that the list is not anti-dog.
“We’re not trying to teach people to be afraid of them. We’re just trying to teach people to read the signals,” she said. “They’re protecting their property and they’re protecting their family, and we’re just trying to understand each other so that we can prevent the homeowner [from] losing their dog because they bit somebody or us not delivering mail because our carriers feel unsafe coming up to their house.”
She said the postal service analyzed dog attacks by zip code to compile the rankings and to inform letter carriers of when they might be in dangerous areas.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that dogs bite more than 4.5 million Americans each year and that half of the victims are children.
“This is a nationwide message, not just a postal message. We’re really preaching responsible pet ownership,” she said.
DeCarlo suggested a few steps that dog owners can take to help protect postal workers: Put the dog in another room before greeting the mail carrier at your door and teach children not to take mail from the carrier directly if there’s a dog in the home.
“They’re designed to protect their family and we’re in their space. We’re near their kids and they’re just reacting the way they’re supposed to,” she said.
The Postal Service also asks customers to indicate whether there are dogs at their homes when they schedule package pickups.
DeCarlo said postal workers undergo special training in dog-bite prevention, such as using their satchel to create a barrier between their bodies and the dog and handling non-harmful dog-repellent spray.
She said that the Postal Service added more than one million delivery points in 2016 and hired more employees so that their exposure is higher.
“The places we’re going to deliver packages and mail is increasing. When you look at the stats, the numbers are increasing but they’re not going up per every delivery,” she explained.
DeCarlo said dog bites in 2016 cost over $2 million in medical expenses and wage-loss compensation.
“6,000 people that either can’t go to their kids soccer game or have to lose time from work is a huge expense on a personal level and a financial level,” she said.
The top 30 list was released in anticipation of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which runs from April 9 until April 15. It is comprised of 40 cities altogether because several reported the same number of attacks.
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