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  • Last modified 3299 days ago (Nov. 5, 2009)

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Postmaster advocates for responsible pet ownership

In early September, a mail carrier in Hillsboro was attacked and bitten by a dog when it broke free from its chain.

According to Postmaster Rebecca Larsen, the dog owner witnessed the attack and restrained the animal, but the incident required a trip to the emergency room.

Mail delivery to that address and surrounding homes was curtailed for a while. The dog owner eventually decided to have the dog put down.

The dog owner also had the option of sending the dog to obedience school, moving it to a different location, or building a fenced area for it.

Larsen said 3,184 carriers nationwide suffered dog bites last year. That’s an average of 11 dog attacks every delivery day, not including the numerous threats.

Larsen has been at Hillsboro since 1993. She has served at two other post offices, and at each, she has had to handle a bite situation.

Her very first package delivery as a postal employee proved traumatic.

“The dog shot out of the door and bit me,” she said.

She believes most dog bites can be prevented through responsible pet ownership.

“Dog owners aren’t necessarily at fault,” she said. “They just need to understand their dogs.”

Experts say dogs are very protective of their territory or family. A letter carrier comes every day, the dog barks, and the carrier leaves. If a dog gets loose, there is a good chance it will attack.

If a letter carrier needs to deliver a certified letter or a package, the dog should be put into a separate room before the door is opened, she said. Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to get at strangers.

Nationally, the number of carriers bitten by dogs has declined. This is attributed to greater cooperation from dog owners, stricter leash laws, and increased efforts to educate letter carriers and the public about the problem.

Larsen is also concerned about the more than 4.7 million dog bites suffered by children and the elderly every year.

If a dog does attack or bite someone, the owner could be liable for the victim’s pain, suffering, and medical expenses.

“Dog owners should remind their children about the need to keep the family dog secured,” Larsen said. “We also recommend parents ask their children not to take mail directly from letter carriers. A dog may see handing mail to a child as a threatening gesture.

“These simple reminders and helpful tips can reduce the hazard of dog bite attacks.”

Last modified Nov. 5, 2009

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