By Paige Austin
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles may be a dog friendly city, but that doesn’t mean its dogs are all that friendly in return.
In fact, Los Angeles leads the nation in postal carrier dog bites. On the whole, being a postal worker in California is a pretty rough gig with seven cities cracking the US Postal Service’s 30 worst cities for dog bites.
Last year, dogs took a bite out of postal employees 6,755 times — 200 more bites than the year before. And California mutts are a big part of the problem. In Los Angeles, 80 dogs nibbled on postal workers in 2016. No other city comes close. San Diego is fourth on the list with 57 bites. Other California cities on the list include Sacramento ranking 20th with 30 bites, Oakland at 26th with 23 bites, San Jose 28th with 21 bites, and Fresno 30th with 19 attacks.
The figures were released in advance of next week’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week, an effort to encourage pet owners to take steps to prevent potentially harmful animal-human interactions.
“Even good dogs have bad days,” said U.S. Postal Service Safety Director Linda DeCarlo in Los Angeles. “Dog bite prevention training and continuing education are important to keep pet owners, pets and those who visit homes — like letter carriers — happy and healthy.”
About 77.8 million dogs live in U.S. homes, and about 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year — half of them children, according to the USPS and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Dogs are our best friends, providing love, comfort and protection,” said Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “But it’s up to us humans to be good friends to them as well by protecting everyone around us — ourselves, our kids and our dogs — from the dangers and consequences of dog bites.”
Postal Service officials recommended that if a letter carrier delivers mail to a home’s front door, dogs should be placed in a separate room with the door closed. Parents should also remind children not to take mail directly from a letter carrier in the presence of a dog, since the animal may view the interaction as a threat, according to the USPS.
The agency noted that if a letter carrier feels threatened by a dog or if a home has dogs running loose, the owner may be asked to pick up mail at a Post Office.
American Humane officials said dogs can bite for a variety of reasons, and even well-trained gentle dogs can bite when provoked. The association offered a number of tips for people to help avoid bites, recommending that children:
- never approach an unknown dog or a dog that is alone without an owner;
- always ask for permission before petting a dog;
- never approach an injured animal;
- never approach a dog that is eating, sleeping or nursing puppies; and
- never poke, hit, pull, pinch or tease a dog.
Dog owners, meanwhile, should:
- never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet;
- monitor interactions between children and dogs;
- teach children to treat dogs with respect and not engage in rough or aggressive play;
- make sure pets are socialized young so they feel at ease around people and other animals;
- never put dogs in a position where they feel threatened;
- walk and exercise dogs regularly to keep them healthy and to provide mental stimulation; and
- keep dogs on a leash in public.