USPS: 22 SC postal workers bit by dogs in 2013 - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

USPS: 22 SC postal workers bit by dogs in 2013

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) -- The United States Postal Service said Thursday that 22 mail carriers in South Carolina have been bitten by dogs this year.

The announcement came as the agency gears up for National Dog Bite Prevention Week next week. According to Harry Spratlin with USPS, there have been 22 bites this year among the state's 1,400 mail carriers.

"The fiscal year is only half over, and already we have 22 dog bites," said Marvin Howard, Manager of Safety.  "We had 28 total incidents the entire year of 2012.  One is too many when you consider the potential impact on an employee's career." 

Nationwide last year, 5,879 Postal Service employees were victimized by dogs, the USPS reported. The agency also warned that uncontrolled dogs can cut delivery for certain areas. 

"The only issue we take more seriously than reliable mail service is the safety of our employees and customers," said Howard.  "South Carolina leash laws support community safety by prohibiting strays. Because a bite from any dog can threaten the career of a mail carrier, we instruct our employees to curtail delivery for the neighbors as well, if they feel a loose dog is a threat."

This year, in order to raise awareness among employees, the USPS is offering safety talks conducted by dog bite victims, who will also help in public outreach.

"Dogs are unpredictable, and can be dangerous when protecting their territory," said Howard.  "Residents should never underestimate their potential to bite. A beloved family pet who has never misbehaved in a family setting can see a stranger as a threat and come after them."

The following data was provided by the USPS:

The Victims

  • More than 4.5 million people are bitten annually.
  • Children are the majority of victims and are 900 times more likely to be bitten than letter carriers.
  • The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report that small children, the elderly, and letter carriers, in that order, are the most frequent victims. Dog attacks are the most commonly reported childhood public health problem in the United States.
  • The AVMA also reports that the number of dog attacks exceeds the reported instances of measles, whooping cough, and mumps, combined.
  • Dog bite victims account for up to 5 percent of emergency room visits.
  • Many attacks reported by letter carriers in 2011 came from dogs whose owners used those famous last words, "my dog won't bite."
  • According to the AVMA, as many as 800,000 people annually are admitted to U.S. emergency departments with dog bite–associated injuries, and countless more bites go unreported and untreated.

How to Avoid Being Bitten

  • Don't run past a dog. The dog's natural instinct is to chase and catch you.
  • If a dog threatens you, don't scream. Avoid eye contact.
  • Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, and then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
  • Don't approach a strange dog, especially one that's tethered or confined.
  • While letter carriers are discouraged from petting animals, people who choose to pet dogs should always let a dog see and sniff them before petting the animal.
  • If you believe a dog is about to attack you, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.

How to Be a Responsible Dog Owner

  • Obedience training can teach dogs proper behavior and help owners control their dog in any situation.
  • When the letter carrier comes to your home, keep your dog inside, away from the door, in another room, or on a leash.
  • Dogs can be protective of their territory and may interpret the actions of letter carriers as a threat.
  • Please take precautions when accepting mail in the presence of your pet.
  • Dogs that haven't been properly socialized, receive little attention or handling, or are left tied-up for long periods of time frequently turn into biters.
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