Postal workers urge dog owners to remember National Dog Bite Prevention Week

Estimates show there are over 70 million dogs living in households across the United States. While the great majority of our four-legged friends are wonderful pets, more than 4.5 million people are victims of dog bites every year, a reminder that even the friendliest dog is capable of doing some damage without the proper training and socialization — education that is necessary both for the canine and the human.

This National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which takes place May 19 through May 25, the United States Postal Service (USPS), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and insurance companies across the U.S. want to remind dog owners in every state to take the proper preventative measures and keep everyone — including Fido — safe.

According to a report released last week by State Farm, the nation’s leading insurer, the number of dog-bite claims fell by 2.1 percent in 2012, certainly a step in the right direction. But in all, there were still 3,670 dog-bite claims filed, each claim costing on average $29,522 to cover everything from stitches, reconstructive surgeries, and lawsuits.

Children were the number-one dog-bite victims; the AVMA reports that of the 800,000 Americans who receive medical attention for dog bites every year, more than half are children.

In a state-by-state breakdown, California leads the pack, with 451 dog-bite claims that cost a whopping $17.1 million in damages. But Illinois (No. 2) and Texas (No. 3) weren’t far behind, with the Land of Lincoln and the Lone Star State reporting 337 claims and 236 claims, respectively.

Top cities for postal workers bitten by dogs in 2012:
1. Los Angeles, California (69 attacks)
2. San Antonio, Texas (42 attacks)
2. Seattle, Washington (42 attacks)
3. Chicago, Illinois (38 attacks)
4. San Francisco, California (38 attacks)
5. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (34 attacks)
6. Detroit, Michigan (33 attacks)
7. St. Louis, Missouri (32 attacks)
8. Baltimore, Maryland (29 attacks)
8. Sacramento, California (29 attacks)
9. Houston, Texas (27 attacks)
9. Minneapolis, Minnesota (27 attacks)
10. Cleveland, Ohio (26 attacks)
10. Dayton, Ohio (26 attacks)
11. Buffalo, New York (24 attacks)
11. Brooklyn, New York (24 attacks)
12. Denver, Colorado (23 attacks)
13. Dallas, Texas (21 attacks)
13. Tacoma, Texas (21 attacks)
14. Wichita, Kansas (20 attacks)
Source: U.S Postal Service, May 2013

But one group was not included in the State Farm dog-bite incident report — mail carriers. Last year alone, 5,879 dog-bite and dog-attack incidents were reported by postal workers — that’s an increase of 274 incidents when compared to 2011.

“There’s two lies we hear at the Postal Service,” United States Postal Service spokesman Mark Saunders tells USA Today. “One is, ‘The check’s in the mail,’ and two is, ‘My dog won’t bite.”

Saunders offered a simple but important piece of advice that is sure to protect dogs, owners and mail carriers — secure Fido safely in another room while answering your door to postal workers or delivery personnel. “You can’t really hold them by the collar while you try to sign for something and take the package,” Saunders explains. “We have a lot of incidents occur that way.”

The city of Los Angeles reported the highest incidence of dog bites involving postal workers.

“Many dogs are cherished members of their family and people believe their dog won’t bite, but given the right circumstances, any dog can attack,” Los Angeles Postmaster Ken Snavely tells Petside.com. “Dogs do not reason like people do and they will react to their instinct to protect their family and territory.”

And dog bites aren’t committed by a limited selection of breeds — any dog, whether Affenpinscher or Akita, Lhasa Apso or Labrador Retriever, Poodle or Pit Bull Terrier is capable of biting.

Loretta Worters, Vice President of the Insurance Information Institute, is quick to point out that dogs are often made dangerous as a result of their owner’s bad behavior and negligence.

“The most dangerous dogs are dogs that fall victim to human shortcomings such as poor training and irresponsible ownership,” Worters explains.

For more information on National Dog Bite Prevention Week 2013, or for tips on how to prevent dog bites in your community, check out the National Dog Bite Prevention Week Facebook page.

Sources: AVMA.org, USA Today, Petside.com