Dog attacks focus of postal service effort

More than 2,800 postal workers nationwide were attacked in 2009.

Tips for dog owners

When a letter carrier comes to your home, keep your dog inside, away from the door in another room.

Don’t let your child take mail from the carrier in the presence of your dog. Your dog’s instinct is to protect the family.

Spay or neuter your dog. Neutered dogs are less likely to bite.

Dogs that receive little attention or handling, or are left tied up for long periods of time, frequently turn into biters.

MIDDLETOWN — In 16 years of delivering mail, Tim Napier has been bitten by two dogs and had to fight off numerous others.

“There are pit bulls and Rottweilers all over Middletown,” Napier said. “It’s getting to the point where I don’t even want to go out on the streets anymore.”

The 47-year-old letter carrier has seen it all. He’s been bitten by a pit bull, chased by chow chows and seen his share of aggressive Shih Tzus.

He once emptied an entire can of pepper spray into the face of an attacking German shepherd, but said the mist was not enough to fend off the canine combatant.

“That was just flavoring for him, I guess,” he joked. “I had to literally punch the dog in the head multiple times to get him to stop attacking me.”

National Dog Bite Prevention Week, spanning May 17-23, is aimed at drawing attention to the estimated 4.5 million dog bites that occur across the country every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Three dog bites were reported within the U.S. Postal Service’s Cincinnati district this past Saturday alone, according to Middletown Postmaster Greg Engel.

Middletown itself has not had any actual bites so far this year, though Engel said more than 2,800 postal carriers nationwide were attacked in 2009.

“I’ve been in Middletown for five years now, and the dogs we encounter are not family friendly pets,” Engel said. “This is probably one of the worst areas I’ve ever worked in as it relates to aggressive dogs.”

When Engel first starting out as a letter carrier in 1976, he received his first and only dog bite from an overzealous Jack Russell terrier. While the reported number of dog attacks has skyrocketed since his early days, Engel said he attributes much of that to better record-keeping.

“When you think about how many deliveries we’re doing every day, it might not seem that bad,” Engel said.

“But if you’re the one who is getting attacked and bitten, one bite is already too many.

“We want to deliver the mail, but we can’t do our job if a dog is threatening one of our carriers,” he said.

Among the tips the U.S. Postal Service offers to pet owners:

• Recognize that you are the key person responsible for controlling your pet.

• Teach each of your family members what they can do to help prevent your dog from biting others.

• Make a commitment to control your pet.

• Keep your pet leashed, fenced or confined as the law requires.

Contact this reporter at (513) 705-2871 or at rgauthier@coxohio.com.

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