http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2007/04/13/postal-service-warns-public-about-pets


Pleasanton Weekly

News - April 13, 2007

Postal service warns public about pets

Dog bites to mail carriers increases spring and summer

by Janet Pelletier

It all happened in a matter of seconds. Before Nanette Antonio knew it, she was on her way to Kaiser for treatment.

The attacker was a Labrador-pit bull mix.

Most people wouldn't consider being a mail carrier a dangerous occupation, but the United States Postal Service deals with more than 5,000 dog bite injuries to employees per year.

For Antonio, the attack on March 15 was disappointing because she had gone the past eight years on her route without one injury--something to be recognized in the Postal Service.

"It wasn't a really vicious dog. It was just protecting the house," Antonio said, adding that she received a bite to her left calf that has since healed.

What hasn't healed, she said, are the emotional wounds caused by such a traumatic experience.

Even the nicest, cutest and smaller dogs aren't to be ignored.

Pleasanton station manager Navrit Sandhu was bitten by a Chihuahua when she used to deliver mail.

Acting supervisor Jack Chang has marks to prove his incident, but wouldn't dare show anyone--they're on his backside.

A large German Shepherd broke through a screen door, knocked over a lounge chair in the front yard and bit Chang before he could even think about defending himself.

"Those two holes will never go away," he said.

They all have stories. A visit to the main Pleasanton Post Office on Black Avenue to hear about these encounters could take all day.

It gets worse in spring and summer, too. That's when the weather's warmer and many homeowners leave the front door open with a screen door intact or a side door to the house open, an invitation for a dog to get out or feel provoked by visitors, such as people making deliveries or dropping off mail.

Carriers tote satchels that they are instructed to put in front of them to fend off an animal and dog spray (similar to pepper spray) to use if the satchel doesn't work. But many times, the incident happens so fast that either method can't be used effectively.

They are often as harmless as a small scratch or gentle bite, but Sandhu recalls one woman who was running away from a dog, fell backwards hitting her head on the pavement and suffered head injuries, a broken wrist and damaged shoulder. She's on permanent disability.

It's cases like those and even those less severe that require a few days off for injured carriers that cost the Postal Service.

"It affects our service a great deal," Sandhu said. "Most people donít think their dog will harm someone."

When situations like these happen, the Postal Service may make a pet owner rent a mailbox at the post office so another carrier never has to encounter that dog. The injured employee and the Postal Service have the right to sue the dog owner for reimbursement of lost wages and medical expenses.

How to Be a Responsible Dog Owner

* Obedience training can teach dogs proper behavior and help owners control their dog in any situation.

* When the letter carrier comes to your home, keep your dog inside, away from the door in another room.

* Don't let your child take mail from the letter carrier in the presence of your dog. Your dog's instinct is to protect the family.

* Spay or neuter your dog. Neutered dogs are less likely to bite. According to the Humane Society of the United States, dogs that have not been spayed or neutered are up to three times more likely to be involved in a biting incident than neutered or spayed dogs.

* Dogs that haven't been properly socialized, receive little attention or handling or are left tied up for long periods of time frequently turn into biters.

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