A dog sits at the window. He sees a big man walk up with something scary in his arm. The dog barks. The man leaves. In the dog’s mind, his barking made the threat go away.

The next day, it happens again. And the next day. And the next. The dog starts to think he needs to do even more to fend off the threat. So over time, he barks even harder, starts to growl, and even becomes aggressive with the man. Eventually the dog gets out and attacks.

That is the true story of what happens to over 5,000 mail carriers a year.

Dog attacks are a huge problem for the US Postal Service (USPS). According to Mental Floss:

“Aggressive dogs are such a constant (and costly) problem that the USPS recommends all postal workers carry a full can of dog pepper spray, which stains the ‘dog menace’ yellow so it can be identified. To alert mail carriers of toothy pooches along a route, the agency issues bright orange Dog Warning Cards, which reveal the dog’s address, breed, and name.”

And still there are at least 16 attacks a day.

In Los Angeles, a city regularly ranked highest in dog attacks on mail carriers, the USPS has enlisted dog trainers to help. But for some of the scariest situations, no amount of training can protect the postal workers. Some dog trainers recommend using the mail bag to fend off the dog and get away. 

In such cases, the mail is likely to be lost. And the recipients have no idea it was because their mailman or woman was fighting for their life.

This is a crazy, awful problem and the solution is nowhere in sight. As hard as the USPS works to prevent their employees from being injured, any mail carrier will tell you it’s a regular part of their job and a constant fear.

The only real solution is for dog owners to keep their pets inside or contained when unattended, train them well, and get more training or help whenever they see (or hear about) signs of aggression. But as a Memphis dog attack lawyer I know this sadly isn’t realistic. There will always be dog owners who refuse to do the right thing.

In many communities, mail carriers can opt out of delivering to certain homes or city blocks over fears about a dangerous dog. Instead they deliver the mail to a post office for residents to pick up in person. This can annoy neighbors and often gets a negative reaction from the dogs’ owners. (The USPS reports many dog owners claim their dogs don’t bite, even after a bite has been reported.)

So next time your mail is slow or you don’t get that check you were expecting, remember to be kind to your mail carrier. They work in rain, sleet, and snow to bring us our mail. And sadly, sometimes it costs them a lot more than we realize.

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Darrell Castle is a dog bite attorney based in Memphis, TN. If you’ve been injured by a dog, contact him today to speak with a lawyer for free.