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Postal Service reports sharp increase in dog attacks for Kentucky carriers

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(The Center Square) – While Kentucky does not rank among the worst states for mail carriers to suffer dog bites, the U.S. Postal Service employees in the Bluegrass State did report a 30% increase in such incidents last year.

The data from the USPS comes as the federal agency started its weeklong National Dog Bite Awareness Campaign on Sunday. Nationally, carriers reported more than 5,800 attacks in 2023, up by about 500 from the previous year.

While a dog biting a mailman has long been a comic trope, it’s hardly a laughing matter for the Postal Service. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average claim for a dog bite injury is $64,555. In addition, the carrier could be forced to miss work based on the extent of their injuries and if any rehabilitation is necessary. It also could lead to delays in service.

The Postal Service reserves the right to suspend service if a carrier does not feel safe. In those instances, the dog’s owner would need to pick up their mail at their local post office. In some cases, a block or a neighborhood could have their service impacted until it’s determined a carrier can safely deliver the mail.

“Letter carriers are exposed to potential hazards every day, none more prevalent than a canine encounter. All it takes is one interaction for a letter carrier to possibly suffer an injury,” said Leeann Theriault, a USPS manager for employee safety and health awareness, in a statement.

Mail carriers in Kentucky reported 103 attacks in 2023, up from 79 in the previous year.

Susan Wright, a Kentucky spokesperson for the Postal Service, told The Center Square that dog bites are considered a third-party claim. The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act requires postal workers to pursue damages from a third party, such as the owner of the dog or the property.

“Dog bites on our employees can be expensive for a dog owner,” Wright said. “The owner could be responsible for medical bills, lost wages, and uniform replacement costs depending on the severity of the attack.”

The Postal Service receives a portion of any third-party settlement or award as reimbursement.

More than a quarter of the Kentucky attacks took place in Louisville. According to the USPS, the 28 reports of a dog bite ranked 14th nationally among U.S. cities.

California had the highest number of cases, with 727 reported in 2023, up from 675 in 2022, and Los Angeles was the top city for incidents, with 65 filed last year.

Regionally, Ohio ranked third nationally with 359 attacks in 2023, a more than 15% increase from the previous year. Illinois was fifth and saw incidents spike by 29% to 316 last year.

Indiana postal workers suffered 147 dog attacks last year, up from 115 in 2022.

The USPS trains its carriers to protect themselves and try to avoid confrontations. That includes making a non-threatening noise to get the dog’s attention when the carrier enters a yard. Carriers are also trained to keep their eyes on the animal and place their mailbag between them and the dog.

Dog owners are urged to keep their pets indoors or behind a fence and restrain them on a leash if necessary. The Postal Service also recommends owners put their dog in another room if the carrier has to walk up to their front or side door to make a delivery.

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