USPS: Rise in dog attacks on SC mail carriers

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – The United States Postal Service says South Carolina mail carriers are experiencing an unusually high number of dog bites this year.

USPS spokesman Harry Spratlin says there are more than 2,300 mail carriers in the Greater South Carolina District and just half way into this fiscal year 22 carriers have already been bit by dogs. Spratlin says that number is just six incidents shy of the total number of attacks for the entire previous year.

Spratlin adds they don't have a direct cause for the increase, but many carriers report seeing more dogs are their routes than ever before.

Mail carriers like Alvin Horton say they're used to being on the lookout for dogs. Horton says he even will jingle his keys because he usually gets a response if there's a dog in the area.  However, Horton says it was a Monday morning in March of 2011 that he forgot to jingle his keys and the unexpected happen.

"This morning I didn't rattle my keys, and as I was doing my loop…I went to step on this house to deliver the mail, [and] I just heard something coming from around the house," said Horton.

He says he had no idea what it was, but by the time he figured it out it was almost too late. "As I turned, the dog was almost there looking to grab or bite and then I took the mail and swiped away."

While Horton wasn't bit, he says the quick turn caused him to tear a ligament in his left knee. He says he was off the job for four months. "I was just trying to deliver the mail, and the dog really was a surprise," he added.

The USPS says of the 210,000 carriers nationwide, nearly 6,000 were bit or attacked last year. Officials say they want to make the public aware of the rise for the sake of the mail carrier's safety, and also so dog owners know that if your dog attacks a postal worker, you're responsible.

"If your dog bites the carrier, there will be proceedings where you'll have to document the [dog's] shots, and you'll be approached by workmen's compensation to compensate the carrier for the medical assistance that they have to have," said Spratlin.

That's something he believes could be avoided just by paying closer attention. "Just don't be lulled into a false sense of security as to whether or not your dog could bite somebody cause when a stranger shows up on your property," said Spratlin. "He's not going to be a loving family member like you're used to."

USPS suggests home owners keep dogs inside or away from doors when mail carriers are on their route.

They add if they're on a leash, make sure the leash is not within reach of the mailbox.