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'My dog won't bite.' Charlotte mail carriers know different, stats show.

More than 6,200 postal workers were attacked by dogs last year, the U.S. Postal Service says in its annual prevention campaign. 
Charlotte tied for the 14th-highest number among cities with 27 attacks.
More than 6,200 postal workers were attacked by dogs last year, the U.S. Postal Service says in its annual prevention campaign. Charlotte tied for the 14th-highest number among cities with 27 attacks. Associated Press

The cliche of dogs chasing mail carriers is no joke: More than 6,200 postal workers were attacked last year, the U.S. Postal Service says in its annual prevention campaign.

Charlotte tied for the 14th-highest number among cities for the number of carriers bitten by dogs in 2017, the Postal Service reports. Twenty-seven attacks were reported by carriers in Charlotte, Minneapolis and Philadelphia. Houston led all cities with 71 attacks.

National Dog Bite Prevention Week, sponsored by the Postal Service, starts this coming Sunday. The campaign "emphasizes the need for increased owner responsibility" in preventing attacks.

"Last year, many attacks reported by letter carriers came from dogs whose owners regularly used the phrase, 'My dog won’t bite,' " the service's Postal Bulletin states.

The Postal Service note that mail carriers are far from the only victims of dog bites. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says dogs bite 4.5 million Americans a year, with most victims 5 to 9 years old.

In 2015, WBTV reported, a mail carrier in Rock Hill, S.C., rescued a 7-year-old girl who was being bitten by a dog.

The 2017 numbers for the U.S., and for Charlotte, show some improvement from 2016. That year, carriers reported 6,755 attacks, the highest number in three decades. Charlotte ranked 17th that year but actually had more bites, 33, than in 2017.

Attacks on mail carriers have climbed steadily since 2013, the Washington Post has reported. The Post noted that the surge in bites coincided with the growth of home deliver of online purchases, exposing carriers more often to household pets. More than one-third of U.S. households include a dog.

“Even good dogs have bad days,” U.S. Postal Service Safety Director Linda DeCarlos said in a statement in 2017.

A postal worker in Los Angeles told NPR that he'd been bitten three times by dogs in 20 years of carrying the mail.

"I got chased down once by two German shepherds," says Lewis. "[I] was delivering mail; it was a house that had a gate. You go in one way and come out another. Went through the gate, never knew they had a dog. Stuck the mail in the box. As I'm turning to leave, the dogs bust through the screen door and just pounced on me. I fell backwards over the fence. My foot got wedged in between the fence. It was one of those days."

The Postal Service advises carriers not to run from dogs, a move that it says can trigger a chase. It says carriers should avoid eye contact with a threatening dog, slowly back away and place an object between themselves and an attacking dog.

Dog owners should keep their dogs indoors or behind a fence, away from the door where a delivery is made, or leashed.

Dogs may view mail carriers as threats on their territory, the Postal Service says. Dogs that have had little social interaction or attention, or have been left tied up for long periods, often turn into biters, it says.

"Pet owners, did you know that if your dog attacks a letter carrier, you could be held liable for all medical expenses and other costs, which can run into thousands of dollars?" says one public service announcement. "Don’t think your fence is the only protection you need — especially if a letter carrier or delivery person must enter your yard. The Postal Service is not anti-dog, but rather pro-responsibility."

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051; @bhender
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