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USPS carriers face down aggressive dogs to deliver the mail

The rivalry between mail carriers and dogs has been fodder for comic strips, cartoons, and comedy sketches for years. Yet for the US Postal Service workers charged with facing down aggressive and territorial dogs during the course of their everyday work, the scene is less-than funny. Official Postal Service statistics show that 3,000 mail carriers suffered from a dog attack during 2010, sometimes leaving the employees with serious injuries and exposing them to the risk of contracting rabies.

When mail carriers, or any other person, are attacked by a dog or other domestic animal, everyone suffers. The victim often requires medical attention, either as a result of the bite or other injuries incurred while attempting to fight off the animal.

Meanwhile, after displaying such aggressive behavior, the animal is usually considered a threat to public safety and taken away from its owners by animal control officials. Pet owners who can't control their pet's behavior may lose their companion and face a liability lawsuit from the victim of their animal's attack.

For mail carriers, dog attacks constitute a serious professional risk. Postal Service employees testify to carrying pepper spray or a similar deterrent as they deliver the mail, and many have received lessons in how to use their satchel as a self-defense tool.

Although mail carriers have the right to refuse to enter a person's property after spotting an unrestrained dog, if the carrier does sustain a dog bite or other injury the owner will be held accountable. US Postal Service representatives assert that the employees can sue a pet owner for any damages they receive during a confrontation with an animal.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal, "Postal carriers in the hot seat when it comes to dog bites." David Rolfe, 5 May 2011

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