PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — National Dog Bite Prevention Week kicks off Sunday at a time when the number of reported dog attacks on postal carriers is the highest it’s been in decades.
Numbers from the United States Postal Service show 6,755 reported dog attacks and bites on postal employees nationwide in 2016.
Los Angeles tops that nationwide list, while Philadelphia ranked 14th for the number of reported dog attacks on postal carriers in 2016.
While that’s less than the year before the in the city, those numbers nationwide have reached troubling heights, according to USPS officials.
James Solomon, a postal carrier in Hatboro, says just last week, a dog attacked him on the job.
It’s the third time, he says, in his 19 years as a letter carrier for USPS.
“I was upset about the whole thing,” Solomon told Eyewitness News. “But maybe 95 percent of your days are with good dogs.”
Solomon had to get tetanus and rabies shots as a precaution, though the Postal Service trains workers to handle incidents like this.
“We are trained to keep the satchel in between us and the dog. We have dog repellent,” he said.
But there are times when that’s not enough.
“You never know if a dog is going to go after someone,” said neighbor Ann Gleave, who lives in the neighborhood Solomon delivers mail to.
Gleave, a former postal service worker herself, says she takes extra precautions with her dog.
“I would make sure he’s penned up, grab ahold of his collar, make sure they don’t cause any harm to anybody,” Gleave said. “When the mailman’s coming, keep an eye on your animals.”
The USPS says it’s implemented safety measures on carrier routes, such as alerting workers of homes with dogs using a delivery scanner system, which can also relay reports of unleashed dogs in the area.
It also suggests the following tips for residents:
If a letter carrier delivers mail or packages to your front door, place your dog in a separate room and close that door before opening the front door. Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to attack visitors. Dog owners should keep the family pet secured.
• Parents should remind their children and other family members not to take mail directly from letter carriers in the presence of the family pet, as the dog may view the letter carrier handing mail to a family member as a threatening gesture.
• The Postal Service places the safety of its employees as a top priority. If a letter carrier feels threatened by a dog, or if a dog is loose or unleashed, the owner may be asked to pick up mail at a Post Office until the letter carrier is assured the pet has been restrained. If the dog is roaming the neighborhood, the pet owner’s neighbors also may be asked to pick up their mail at the area’s Post Office.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says kids are at risk too; of the 4.5 million Americans bitten by dogs annually, half are children.