USPS: 22 SC postal workers bit by dogs in 2013

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 isonly half over, and already we have 22 dog bites," said Marvin Howard,Manager of Safety.{} "We had 28 totalincidents the entire year of 2012.{} Oneis too many when you consider the potential impact on an employee'scareer."{}

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

"Theonly issue we take more seriously than reliable mail service is the safety ofour employees and customers," said Howard.{}"South Carolinaleash laws support community safety by prohibiting strays. Because a bite from any dog can threaten thecareer of a mail carrier, we instruct our employees to curtail delivery for theneighbors as well, if they feel a loose dog is a threat."

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

"Dogs areunpredictable, and can be dangerous when protecting their territory," saidHoward.{} "Residents should neverunderestimate their potential to bite. Abeloved family pet who has never misbehaved in a family setting can see astranger as a threat and come after them."

The following data was provided by the USPS:

The Victims

  • More than 4.5million people are bitten annually.
  • Children are themajority of victims and are 900 times more likely to be bitten than letter carriers.
  • The AmericanVeterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Academyof Pediatrics (AAP) report that small children, the elderly, and lettercarriers, in that order, are the most frequent victims. Dog attacks are themost commonly reported childhood public health problem in the United States.
  • The AVMA alsoreports that the number of dog attacks exceeds the reported instances ofmeasles, whooping cough, and mumps, combined.
  • Dog bite victimsaccount for up to 5 percent of emergency room visits.
  • Many attacksreported by letter carriers in 2011 came from dogs whose owners used thosefamous last words, "my dog won't bite."
  • According to theAVMA, as many as 800,000 people annually are admitted to U.S. emergencydepartments with dog bite-associated injuries, and countless more bites gounreported and untreated.

How to Avoid Being Bitten

  • Don't run past adog. The dog's natural instinct is to chase and catch you.
  • If a dogthreatens you, don't scream. Avoid eye contact.
  • Try to remainmotionless until the dog leaves, and then back away slowly until the dog is outof sight.
  • Don't approach astrange dog, especially one that's tethered or confined.
  • While lettercarriers are discouraged from petting animals, people who choose to pet dogsshould always let a dog see and sniff them before petting the animal.
  • If you believe adog is about to attack you, try to place something between yourself and thedog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.

How to Be a Responsible Dog Owner

  • Obediencetraining can teach dogs proper behavior and help owners control their dog inany situation.
  • When the lettercarrier comes to your home, keep your dog inside, away from the door, inanother room, or on a leash.
  • Dogs can beprotective of their territory and may interpret the actions of letter carriersas a threat.
  • Please takeprecautions when accepting mail in the presence of your pet.
  • Dogs that haven'tbeen properly socialized, receive little attention or handling, or are lefttied-up for long periods of time frequently turn into biters.