As a mail carrier, you know that dogs often react aggressively whenever you approach the house. You are used to hearing them bark, paw at the window and jump up against the door. It often happens before you even get to the house, as if the dogs are just sitting and waiting for you to come up the sidewalk.
And perhaps they are. Dogs are very territorial, and they may honestly think that they are protecting the home from a potential intruder. Never mind that it happens every day. That may even strengthen this belief, as the dog feels like it has chased you away day after day.
But are you really in any danger? You know the cliches about mail carriers running away from dogs or getting bit while scrambling back to the truck, but does that really happen?
It does happen, and it may happen far more often than you think. Reports show that 6,755 postal employees suffered dog attacks in the United States in 2016. That's an a average of 18.5 attacks per day. Clearly, the risk is real, and some dogs do far more than bark.
It is also getting worse, or at least it did between 2015 and 2016. The increase in dog attacks between the two years was more than 200. Even if it had not increased, the fact that 6,500 mail carriers get attacked every year is concerning. If the statistics keep climbing, mail carriers may start to wonder if it is really worth the trouble.
New Jersey — a safe haven?
The good news for mail carriers in New Jersey is that, while attacks do occur, not a single city in the state appeared in the top 30 cities with the most bites, per the United States Postal Service (USPS). The most attacks happened in Los Angeles in 2016, with 80. Houston came in second, with 62, while Cleveland came in third with 60. In spot number 30 was Shawnee Mission, Kansas, with 18 attacks.
Again, this does not mean attacks do not happen in New Jersey. They absolutely do, and mail carriers daily face risks. Much of the rankings have to do with the size of the city. Is it any surprise that a huge city like Los Angeles ranked first? There are simply more people, more postal employees and more dogs. In Lawnside, having 10 attacks in a year would feel like a huge safety issue, despite not cracking the Top 30.
Mail carriers must remember that even good dogs can bite. They also have bad days or react violently because of additional outside forces, such as hunger or illness or getting startled. If you suffer a bite this year, make sure you know what legal options you have.