Mail carriers wary of aggressive dogs

May 19 2010 - 6:18pm

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(BETH SCHLANKER/Standard-Examiner) U.S. Postal worker Corey Vigil delivers mail along his route in Ogden on Wednesday.
(BETH SCHLANKER/Standard-Examiner) U.S. Postal worker Corey Vigil delivers mail along his route in Ogden on Wednesday.

OGDEN -- Corey Vigil has good reason to fear a barking dog. About two years ago, a dog aggressively gnawed the 40-year-old mail carrier on the back of his leg during a delivery.

Vigil, a carrier of six years who delivers along Ogden's East Bench, didn't even have time to grab his canister of dog repellent or use his satchel to deflect the charging chow lab-mix pup. He had previously been assured from the dog's owner that the dog did not bite, a claim Vigil has learned to take lightly these days.

"You get the same story from people," Vigil said. "They say 'My dog won't bite you.' I get that all day long."

The United States Postal Service reports that incidents of dogs biting mail carriers are up statewide.

Last year in Utah, 42 carriers were bitten, an increase of seven from the year before that. Nationwide, 2,863 carriers were bitten in 2009.

After years delivering mail, Vigil has worked up an anxiety about being bit.

"They sit at your feet," Vigil said. "You don't know what they're going to do. A dog two days ago bit my shoe before I could do anything or grab my dog spray."

Sometimes the only line of defense between a mail carrier and an aggressive dog is a satchel and dog repellent, a weak form of mace that doesn't always work well on big dogs.

Vigil has learned which homes have dogs and knows when to be more cautious making a delivery. It's also customary for carriers to alert substitute workers which homes along the route have dogs.

USPS officials want to remind people that even if they feel confident their dog won't bite a carrier, it's best to take precautions anyway.

Letter carriers who feel their safety is at risk can cut off service to a particular home or even an entire block if a threatening dog is running loose. In those cases, residents are required to pick up their mail from the post office until the problem is resolved.

Besides a cut to service, aggressive dogs can cause more serious problems for owners.

If a dog bites a mail carrier, the animal may be taken from the residence for good. Also, the post office holds owners responsible for paying any medical bills associated with the bite.

"It's not worth it," Vigil said. "I love dogs. I have two. I would tend to think they wouldn't bite someone, but I would never tell someone that because I don't know."

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