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Mail carriers do their best to ward off dog bites

It is a problem for mail carriers in Florida and all over the United States: dog bites and attacks. Last year alone, there were more than 3,000 dog attacks on U.S. mail carriers. According to the U.S. Postal Service, the only group attacked more often was children.

Postal service employees are aware of the problem. Most know of the dogs they will encounter on their regular routes. They are equipped with pepper spray, and can use that and their mail satchels to ward off vicious animals. Still, that doesn't always make it easy.

According to sources, letter carriers know not to get in between a dog and the pet owner's house, as dogs are territorial. However, according to a postal worker in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, allowing a dog outside with the help of an invisible fence often backfires. Since the animals associate anything outside the invisible boundary with pain, they can actually get more territorial.

One carrier was attempting to deliver mail to the home of a former NASCAR driver last month when she was attacked by five dogs. She apparently suffered injuries to her arm, legs and shoulders, and was not sure if she would return to her job.

Filling in for another carrier can also be tricky. Dogs accustomed to certain carriers may not be so kind to strangers. If fending off an animal with pepper spray doesn't work - and it may not, in all cases - it is important to stand your ground and attempt to ward off the dog with the satchel, sources say.

Delivering mail can be tough for carriers concerned with their safety. According to sources, they do have a right to refuse to deliver mail to a house if a dog is loose nearby. They are also free to file lawsuits against pet owners if they are indeed attacked.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal, "Postal carriers in the hot seat when it comes to dog bites," John Hinton and Wesley Young, 5 May 2011

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