Booming online sales mean more dog bites for mail carriers

For letter carrier Jason Thompson, the breed doesn’t much matter. In his 17-year career with the U.S. Postal Service, Thompson said he has been attacked by all types of dogs.

“I’ve been attacked several times,” said Thompson, a 1998 Hamilton High School graduate. “A Bull Mastiff in Cincinnati cut my leg up pretty good, and I was attacked by two German Shepherds, pit bulls and small dogs.”

Booming online retail sales are good news for the U.S. Postal Service, but its carriers are incurring a cost: more dog bites.

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Dog attacks on postal workers rose last year to 6,755, up 206 from the previous year and the highest in three decades, as Internet shopping booms and consumers increasingly demand seven-day-a-week package delivery and groceries dropped at their doorstep. The high for attacks dated back to the 1980s, at more than 7,000, before maulings by pit bulls and other potentially aggressive dogs became a public issue.

Los Angeles topped the 2016 list with 80 attacks on postal workers, followed by Houston with 62 and Cleveland with 60.

Cincinnati and Columbus also made the list’s top 25. Cincinnati at No. 24 with 24 attacks, and Columbus at No. 14 with 39 attacks.

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Susan Wright, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service, said pet owners should keep their dog in a separate room and close the door before opening the front door for their letter carrier, and parents should remind their children not to take mail directly from letter carriers in the presence of the family pet as the dog may see handing mail to a child as a threatening gesture.

“Business owners that have dogs on their premises should also be careful when there mail is being delivered,” Wright said. “We had an incident reported where a carrier made a delivery to a business and was attacked, requiring stitches.”

Jason Thompson who has had mail routes in Cincinnati, Hamilton and Fairfield, said he once had to use Mace to thwart an attack from a dog.

The dog’s owner, he said, became more upset with Thompson than his dog.

“He comes running up, yelling at me …” Thompson recalled. “Then he just pushes into me and knocks me over. My mail bag went flying.”

Mail is protected federal property, but the letter carrier is not, according to Thompson

“We can have a civil case, but it does not qualify as a federal crime,” he said.

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Thompson was also once attacked by two German shepherds.

“They knocked me down and were biting and clawing at me. I couldn’t do anything but yell and try to protect myself,” he said. “The whole attack lasted about 15 seconds, but it felt like 15 minutes.”

He said the breed doesn’t matter, as any dog can “in the moment just attack,” adding, “you have to be cautious and vigilant when on your route.”

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This article contains additional reporting by the Associated Press.

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