Phoenix may have a serious problem with aggressive dogs, a recent report from the United States Postal Service shows.
Phoenix is tied for sixth in the nation for most mail carriers bitten or attacked by dogs, with 38 attacks in the past year. Houston came in first with 62, followed by San Diego and Columbus with 45 each.
For District Safety Specialist Jeff Houtler that's a problem.
"I was disappointed, to say the least," Houtler said. "I wish it was better. Ranking sixth in the nation I'm concerned about that, but I'm also aware that that pales in comparison to children getting bit and elderly getting bit."
Houtler believes the high number could be due to a high number of loose dogs and lots of walking routes for mail carriers. His job is to educate carriers in their first orientation and refresher courses and also to educate the public about the dangers mail carriers face.
The post office uses "dog warning cards" to warn carriers of areas that have had dog problems in the past. It's a bright-colored card to keep everyone aware of the potential danger of an area. Carriers also carry dog spray and try to have some type of satchel that puts a little bit of space between them and any dog.
They're also trained not to wear any head sets and to place their foot on the screen door if they can hear a dog barking inside a home. If there is no screen door carriers are trained to step back away from the door.
The problem with mail carriers being bit is more serious in areas where carriers must go door to door to deliver mail, but even with centralized mail boxes some attacks have come out of Ahwatukee Foothills.
Recently, a resident claimed her small dog was killed by a neighbor's aggressive dog.
The Arizona Animal Welfare League (AAWL) has a few tips for dealing with aggressive dogs.
"Stand like a tree. Ignore the dog completely. Don't smile or show your teeth, those are all signs of aggression to a dog," said Rachael Gardner, education programs manager with AAWL. "If they do pursue you, stand still. If they bite you, go to the ground like a turtle. Cover your ears and head and wait. Most likely they will leave you alone. Anything moving is like prey to them.
"Don't try to out run or out bike a dog, it's not a good idea."
Gardner also warned people should never go near a dog that has babies, is near food, who is protective of their owner, or is on a chain outside or inside a car. Dogs will try to protect their area.
Gardner added that AAWL does have a Feisty Fido class for those who own an aggressive dog. The class provides tips on how to best keep control of your dog. She also suggests keeping a close eye on the dog and keeping it inside your home or in a fenced area.
Houtler said the public can help postal workers by having their dogs spayed or neutered, acclimating them to being around people and by just keeping a close eye on them.
"You wouldn't want your child to run up to a strange person, so why would you do that with your pets," Houtler said. "We teach that with the children. We don't want them to be too friendly and run up to strangers or down the street, but yet we kind of seem to do that with animals. We should treat them the same way."
For more information on AAWL's Feisty Fido class, visit aawl.org and click on "Services."
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