Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they can also be unpredictable, territorial, and deeply protective of their family and perceived “turf.”
This can be incredibly dangerous for United States Postal Service letter carriers, who walk from property to property, potentially exposed to dog bites hundreds of times each day.
So what is the USPS dog bite policy? What are the mail carriers’ rights? Here’s what you need to know.
What Is the USPS Dog Bite Policy In 2022?
United States Postal Service mail carriers are trained to ward off dog attacks, but if a bite occurs, they are fully within their rights to press charges against the owner. Mail carriers are also entitled to workers’ compensation for their injuries. USPS encourages prevention on the part of both mail carriers and dog owners.
Let’s take a closer look at what happens if your dog does bite a mail carrier, some dog bite facts, how mail carriers protect themselves from dogs, and what homeowners can do to prevent dog bites in the first place. See below!
What Happens If A Dog Bites A Mail Carrier?
Imagine the worst-case scenario: your normally sweet pup escapes the gate and attacks the mail carrier, biting them and leaving marks.
Now, the law differs from state to state, but on the whole, the owner is liable for the injuries done to the mail carrier.
This is because, as pet owners, we have an obligation not just to protect our dogs from harm, but to protect others from harm caused by our dogs, which are our property.
The mail carrier can choose to press charges or not; from what I am seeing, many do not, especially if the injuries aren’t so severe.
And in many cases, workers’ comp will cover all the mail carrier’s medical needs, including treatment, physical therapy, etc.
However, serious attacks can cause lasting trauma in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
So while the carrier’s leg or arm might heal, their fear of being attacked again can linger for years.
If you, as a dog owner, would not like to be on the hook for years of mental healthcare, it’s best to follow the prevention best practices, listed further down.
How Many Mail Carriers Get Bit By Dogs Per Year?
In recent years, the Postal Service reported 5,800 dog attacks.
The number varies each year, but it appears that the more often mail carriers have to get closer to your physical house – e.g., to deliver packages – the more often attacks occur.
The issue is prevalent enough that USPS holds a National Dog Bite Awareness Week each year.
During this time, the Postal Service encourages the public to educate themselves on the issue and learn ways to help prevent our mail carriers from being attacked.
Can The Post Office Make You Get Rid Of Your Dog?
As far as my research has shown, USPS will not make you get rid of your dog after a near-attack or attack.
Rather, say a mail carrier experiences a situation where a dog interfered with their job without actually attacking – whether that’s feeling threatened or a near-attack.
The mail carrier will then alert their postmaster or superior, who will contact the owner and inform them of the threat their dog poses.
They will be asked to (better) contain their dog during delivery hours and will be informed that mail delivery will be paused until they have done so.
The Postal Service is not out to get your precious pooch; rather, they want dog owners to take responsibility for their pets by avoiding threatening situations in the first place.
How Do USPS Mail Carriers Protect Themselves From Dogs?
USPS mail carriers receive a whole breadth of training on how to protect themselves from dogs.
Think about it: a bad weather event is mostly predictable and can be prepared for in advance.
But any residence can contain a dog that accidentally gets loose and attacks.
To that end, carriers are trained to:
- Not startle dogs
- Keep the dog in their line of sight
- Always assume they could be bitten and act accordingly (no petting, even if the dog has been friendly before)
- Not “surprise” dogs by making some kind of noise upon entering the premises
- Not use their feet to hold/open doors
In the event that a dog does attack, mail carriers are trained to use their mail bags as a barrier between them and the animal.
This could mean just using it between them and the dog while they get away or, if needed, they can swing it at the dog to repel it long enough for them to get to safety.
Mail carriers are also outfitted with a special dog pepper spray. I’ll cover that more in-depth in the section below.
Can USPS Mail Carriers Pepper Spray Your Dog?
Mail carriers with the Postal Service are provided with and encouraged to use pepper spray to deter an attacking dog.
The spray provides a temporarily uncomfortable sensation when used correctly, and carriers are trained to aim at dogs’ eyes, nose and mouth.
Discomfort should last anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, during which time the mail carrier can get away to safety.
Do you want to prevent your dog from being sprayed with pepper spray?
Then your best bet is always to protect your mail carrier by keeping dogs securely confined.
If the dog having access to the front door is the issue, then confine them to a different room.
If it’s your gate or fence, it is your responsibility to fix any flaws or security hazards.
When dogs threaten USPS mail carriers, those employees are completely within their rights to protect themselves from attack.
That may include using their mailbags as a barrier or deterrent, or even dispensing pepper spray at the dog’s nose, mouth and eyes.
Dog owners play a vital role in preventing attacks, and should always do their utmost keep mail carriers safe from harm.