Written by Denise Nash Friday, 31 July 2009 00:00United States Post Service (USPS) employees have always had to guard themselves against the threat of a dog bite, something very common in their profession. Although the USPS asks dog owners to be responsible and help protect their workers as well as others, accidents do happen.
Based on statistics provided by the USPS, last year Long Island had 40 dog bites.
In addition to postal carriers, children are statistically in a high-risk category for dog bites. And, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, children are frequently bitten on the face, which can result in severe lacerations, infection or scarring.
“Approximately half of the 800,000 Americans who receive medical attention for dog bites each year are children,” said Dr. James O. Cook, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) president. “Through increased education and other efforts, these incidents are largely preventable.”
The USPS, joined by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery, and the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons, declared a week in May as National Dog Bite Prevention Week.
The USPS recently mailed postal customers postcards including steps that dog owners should take to prevent a dog bite.
The Postal Service offers the following tips:
• Don’t run past a dog. The dog’s natural instinct is to chase and catch prey.
• If a dog threatens you, don’t scream. Avoid eye contact. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
• Don’t approach a strange dog, especially one that’s tethered or confined.
• While letter carriers are discouraged from petting animals, people who choose to pet dogs should always let a dog see and sniff them before petting the animal.
• If you believe a dog is about to attack you, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.
• Obedience training can teach dogs proper behavior and help owners control their dogs.
• When a carrier comes to your home, keep your dog inside, away from the door in another room.
• Don’t let your child take mail from the carrier in the presence of your dog. Your dog’s instinct is to protect the family.
• Spay or neuter your dog. Neutered dogs are less likely to bite.
• Dogs that receive little attention or handling, or are left tied up for long periods of time, frequently turn into biters.
To help educate the public about dog bites, the AVMA has developed a brochure, “What you should know about dog bite prevention,” offering tips on how to avoid being bitten, what dog owners can do to prevent their dogs from biting and how to treat dog bites.
Such tips include picking a dog that is a good match for your home, consulting your veterinarian for details, socializing your pet and avoiding aggressive games with your dog. To access the brochure online, visit www.avma.org/press/publichealth/dogbite/mediakit.asp.