WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah - United States Postal Service says delivering mail with an unrestrained dog can be dangerous for Utah Postal Carriers.
Last year, 30 unrestrained dogs sunk their teeth into Utah Postal Carriers, according to the United States Postal Service. This year, 12 carriers have already been bitten.
In her 20-year career, Diane Skougard has only been bitten once, but has had plenty of risky encounters.
“They get a little scary at times," Skougard said. "You don’t know what a dog’s gonna do and everybody tells you that their dog won’t bite… and that’s usually the case with them, but not with us.”
Nationwide, 6,755 postal workers were attacked in 2016. Skougard said dogs do not seem to like her or her coworkers because dogs think they're threatened. She said the dogs are trying to protect their property.
Captain Robert Lewis with Salt Lake County Animal services said situational awareness is key. He and other officers regularly visit post offices to teach workers what can be done to stay safe. He said that so-called "friendly" dog can turn mean "in the blink of an eye."
"Any sights, smells, sounds, anything can set an animal off, especially if it feels threatened and or scared," Lewis said.
Skougard said they were trained to keep their satchel between their bodies and any approaching dog, so the dog would bite the satchel first. She said they also carry dog spray that they can use to get the dog to back away. Lewis said whistles can also come in handy to stop a dog from advancing.
The postal service shared the following tips:
If a postal carrier delivers a certified letter or a package to your front door, place your dog into a separate room and close the door before opening the front door. Dogs have been known to burts through screen doors or plate-glass windows to get at strangers.
Dog owners should remind their children about the need to keep the family dog secured. Parents should remind their children not to take mial directly from postal carriers in the presence of the family pet as the dog may see handling mail to a child as a threatening gesture.
The Postal Service places the safety of its employees as a top priority. If a postal carrier feels threatened by a vicious dog or if a dog is running loose, the owner may be asked to pick up the mail at the Post Office until the carrier is assured the pet has been restrained. If the dog is roaming the neighborhood, the pet owner's neighbors may be asked to pick up their mail at the Post Office as well.
More postal workers will train Friday, marking the end of National Dog Bite Prevention Week.