Posted: Oct 22, 2012 6:42 PM by KXLF Media Center
In the last year 5,600 U. S. Postal Service employees were attacked by dogs while they were delivering mail, according to the Butte Post Office Postmaster, Ronda Mailey.
"We [the U.S. Postal Service] spent $1.2 million last year in medical expenses because our employees were bitten by dogs," Mailey said.
Dave Hansen, a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in Butte, is concerned for his safety when delivering mail, but it is not always the dogs that come to his mind first.
"We're dealing with steps, curbs, things like that, so we're paying attention to other safety issue that go on throughout the day," Hansen said. "Secondarily you're not thinking about the dog most of the time unless you're on a new route of course then you always want to be watching for it, but there is plenty to worry about without the dogs in the equation."
Hansen has been delivering mail for the past 25 years. In the last year he has encountered two problematic dogs.
"As a company we take animal attacks very seriously," Hansen said.
When a letter carrier encounters a dog, they are required to fill out a "Warning to the Animal Owner" form and turn it into the postmaster, according to Mailey. The postmaster will deliver it to the pet owner and decide the appropriate steps to take next. Typically, the postmaster will suspend the delivery of mail to the home for a period of time. If the offense continues, delivery is suspended for the entire neighborhood.
"'Don't worry my dog won't bite' is often the last thing one of my carriers hears before they are attacked by an animal," Mailey said.
To prevent letter carriers from being bitten they are trained to defend themselves in the event that a dog does attack. Hansen said dogs typically attack the first thing they come in contact with. He uses his mail satchel to provide a shield between him and an aggressive dog. He carries pepper spray for emergency situations.
"That is what I consider a last resort, because if you ever have to spray a dog then the battle lines are pretty much drawn forever and there is no going back," Hansen said.
"It's not even a dog problem so much as it is an ownership problem. I would like to see the owners be held accountable if there is a problem with their dog. The postal service has no sense of humor when it comes to animal attacks and we do what we can to keep the employees safe," Hansen said.