In these charged and polarized times, one of America’s long-standing feuds was driven into focus this week by the United States Postal Service: mail carriers vs. dogs.
The postal service’s Dog Bite Awareness Week — a public outreach campaign that runs through Saturday — aims to inform the public of the danger their dogs can pose to mail carriers and offers tips on mitigating the risk of an attack.
More than 5,300 postal service workers were attacked by dogs in 2022, according to a USPS press release. Fifteen of those attacks occurred in Las Vegas, up from 12 the year before.
However, the valley still ranks near the bottom in attacks nationally, according to a list released by the USPS. Houston leads the pack, with 57 dog bites in 2022.
Candice Smith, who has been a Las Vegas mail carrier for four years, said the campaign’s goal is to ensure that post office workers are safe on the job.
“Dogs are just unpredictable,” Smith said. “They’re protective of their families, and we want to make sure that we’re able to keep our carriers from getting attacked.”
Smith recommended that people keep their dogs in their homes or ensure they’re controlled or on a leash when they notice their mail carrier nearby. If they feel their dog might be too excitable, put them in another room when their mail carrier comes to the door to collect a signature.
DeAnna Hernandez, safety manager for the Nevada-Utah USPS District, pointed out that these safety tips protect the health of mail carriers and protect people from liability or having to see their dog get put down for chomping down on a federal worker.
The USPS reported that many attacks came from dogs whose owners assured were friendly and wouldn’t bite.
The postal service also prepares their carriers on how to handle dogs, recommending not to startle them or make any sudden movements or sounds, and never attempt to feed or pet them. Mail carriers are instructed to stand their ground in the case of a dog attack, and use their mail satchel to keep the canine at bay.
Carriers also have a dog alert feature on their handheld devices, and dog warning cards to alert carriers about any possibly nefarious dog activity. Smith also said she carries dog spray with her on her route.
“We have to be careful. We jiggle our keys and make noise so that the dogs can hear us so that we know if they’re there,” she said. “If we see a dog that’s not contained, we curtail the mail for the day.”