Package deliveries drive uptick in postal dog attacks

Jason Addy
  • Seven dog attacks on U.S. Postal Service mail carriers were recorded in the York area in 2016.
  • Online shopping is playing a role in the increased number of postal dog attacks across America.
  • Last week was National Dog Bite Prevention Week.

York County is among the worst in central Pennsylvania for dog attacks on mail carriers, and the job is only getting more dangerous.

Attacks on carriers in the York area went up in 2016, climbing from five in 2015 to seven, while attacks in the U.S. Postal Service’s central Pennsylvania region rose 14 percent last year, from 100 to 114, according to USPS statistics.

York's number placed it second in the region for dog attacks on mail carriers — behind Reading’s 12 — and fourth in Pennsylvania behind Philadelphia's 40, Pittsburgh's 15 and Reading, according to USPS statistics.

Elsewhere, Harrisburg had six recorded dog attacks in 2016, Lancaster had three, and Hanover had one.

The region covers much of the state, from Clarks Summit in northeastern Pennsylvania to the southern edge of York County and from Allentown west to Carlisle.

The trend isn't unique to central Pennsylvania.

Dog attacks on mail carriers are on the rise across the country — and the U.S. Postal Service is trying to educate customers to help make its employees’ daily delivery routes safer.

Package deliveries: Up until a few years ago, USPS officials only tracked the number of mail carriers who were bitten by dogs, but they realized that statistic wasn't telling the full story, said Karen Mazurkiewicz, USPS communications specialist for central Pennsylvania. For instance, she recalled an incident where a carrier injured his shoulder after being knocked over by two pit bulls, though he wasn't bitten.

The change in tracking led to an uptick in the number of dog attacks on mail carriers, but the trend has recently been fueled by online shopping. The large increase in home package deliveries has contributed to the increase in postal dog attacks because of the extra time mail carriers are exposed to potentially dangerous situations.

Before the rise in door-to-door deliveries, which often require customers’ signatures, much of the mail could be delivered to curbside mailboxes, Mazurkiewicz said.

“It’s just that extra (time) out of the vehicle making them vulnerable that has increased the attack numbers,” Mazurkiewicz said.

Safety education: Knowing that carriers face increased dangers, Mazurkiewicz said USPS officials are trying to educate their carriers and customers to curb the rise in dog attacks.

Carriers are given tips to remain safe while out delivering mail, such as putting a foot at the bottom of screen doors before knocking to ensure a dog doesn’t run out, and they are now equipped with mail scanners that notify them of residences with dogs, Mazurkiewicz said.

Many dog owners think their pets would never bite a mailman, but USPS officials want to erase that perception.

“Your dog might be the gentlest dog for you, but when a dog feels threatened, their instinct is to attack,” Mazurkiewicz said as a reminder to dog owners. “Your dog is not the exception; most of them are the rule."

National Dog Bite Prevention Week was April 9-15.