Nearly 800 postal workers were attacked by dogs last year throughout California, a state that leads the nation in postal carrier canine bites.
In Garden Grove, one of California’s top danger zones for United States Postal Service (USPS) workers, officials held a press conference on June 16 in conjunction with National Dog Bite Awareness Week. Victims shared their experiences in an attempt to educate the public on the dangers of uncontained aggressive animals.
Holding back tears, mail carrier Diana King told reporters that she was once ambushed by a dog while on the job.
“I didn’t know that the dog was under the car,” she said. “The dog just suddenly came out from under the car and was lunging at me. I had my satchel, I tried to use it, it fell off, and the dog got me on the kneecap.”
She said the difficulty of the situation wasn’t the medical treatment, but the emotional toll the incident took on her.
“It’s a long-term effect,” King said. “Because when you have to drive by that house again, you do get a knot in your stomach, and it lasts for a couple of years.”
While delivering mail, USPS workers carry dog-repellant spray. They also receive training on how to respond to an approaching dog.
Despite such precautions, nips continue to be reported.
“You don’t always have time to pull out spray and aim at the dog,” carrier Lee Mareno said while explaining how a dog attacked him.
The culprit in Mareno’s case was a small pooch that snuck up on him and took a bite at his ankle.
According to the USPS, six months into 2021, Garden Grove has reported six dog-bite incidents, following 11 reported attacks last year. Statewide, California led the nation with 782 postal service employee dog attacks last year.
In Garden Grove, this year’s dog attacks accounted for more than half the accidents on record, said District Safety Specialist Christina Hernandez.
The USPS urges residents to take control of their pets while carriers are delivering mail.
“We have families. We want to go home to them at the end of the day, just like you do,” Garden Grove postmaster Richard Alonzo said. “You can help them get home safely by securing your pets, and by following some basic safety tips.”
Most pet owners assume their dogs don’t bite, but if they have teeth, they’re capable of it, he said.
The post office recommends dogs be placed in a separate room when mail is retrieved from mailboxes. Interactions with mail carriers and pet owners can seem threatening to a dog and lead to an attack.
USPS urges residents to be aware of carriers in the neighborhood and take advantage of informed delivery so they can get a notification if a package delivery is scheduled.
If a dog attacks or makes a carrier feel unsafe, the consequences can vary from requiring the whole neighborhood to retrieve mail from the post office or euthanizing a dog after a violent attack, Alonzo said.
Nationwide, more than 5,800 postal service employees were attacked by dogs in 2020.