- Associated Press - Thursday, June 9, 2016

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) - The squid and the whale. Frazier vs. Ali. Aaron Burr against Alexander Hamilton. Among other historic rivalries, mail carriers are vying for the upper hand over dogs.

Help - not in winning the fight, but avoiding the conflict - is here, with two new initiatives announced by the United States Postal Service as part of Dog Bite Prevention Week.

Mail carriers soon will be armed with a Mobile Delivery Device, on which they’ll be able to ping potentially dangerous encounters on their route. For carriers who work the same route every day, they have a good idea which houses have barking dogs, but the device, which will alert drivers when they’re within 250 feet of a hazard, will be especially valuable when the postal service sends out substitute or new employees.

“It might also tell him that there’s a slip hazard or there’s broken steps at such and such an address,” said Rebecca Brummitt, customer relations coordinator for the USPS in Peoria, “so even if there’s a substitute on that route, they can know if there’s a potential hazard such as a dog.”

Customers also will be asked to designate whether they have a dog any time they schedule a pickup by USPS.

While the two dog bites to mail carriers recorded in Peoria last year pales in comparison to 6,549 in the U.S. (Houston was tops in 2015 with 77 dog bites to USPS employees), Brummitt points out that dog bites can cause serious injury and infection, as well as significant emotional trauma.

Mail carriers are trained about how to interact with dogs and even how to respond during an attack by pushing their mail bag between them and the animal, but being prepared ahead of time using these monitoring tools could be an important step in avoiding confrontations with potentially aggressive dogs.

“Not that all dogs are harmful or would attack, but if you’re aware of it already, you would approach it differently,” Brummitt said.

Pet owners often fail to see the potential danger in their own pets because dogs inherently will respond differently to mail carriers than they would to their owners or even to other visitors.

Most dogs’ interactions with mail carriers are limited to through-the-window observation during the day, when often their owners are not around. Kitty Yanko, education coordinator for the Peoria Humane Society, points out that those simple interactions - dog barks, carrier leaves - can reinforce to dogs that they are performing their home protection duties well by effectively “scaring off” the threat.

“It’s when the carrier is walking up to the house and Mom and Dad are gone, the dog’s natural interest is to protect the home. They are just doing what comes natural to them,” Yanko said.

An interruption to that routine, like when a carrier needs to collect a signature for a delivery, can heighten a dog’s perception of threat and trigger an aggressive response. Just the act of handing a letter or package to their owner can be viewed by dogs as an act of aggression.

When accepting a package or letter from your mail carrier, Yanko recommends completely taking your dog out of the area.

“When that interaction is happening, the dog should not be there,” Yanko said.

She recommends shutting your pet temporarily in a separate room or putting him or her in a crate before taking the package. Mail carriers, she said, would rather wait for a few minutes than have to fend off an attack.

She recommends that dogs, regardless of size, breed or disposition, not be allowed physical or visual access to mail carriers whenever possible.

“The bottom line is, any dog can bite, even a nice dog,” Yanko said.


Source: (Peoria) Journal Star, https://bit.ly/27QVgQ9


Information from: Journal Star, https://pjstar.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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