Dog attacks on letter carriers are the stuff that legends are made of. They are not just myths! How do I know? I found out the hard way; I asked my letter carrier.
One day I noticed that Mike, my letter carrier, was wearing a pepper spray on his belt that was neatly tucked into a holster. That started the conversation. I asked if I could see it and immediately noticed that it was out of date. He told me he didn't know that it had expired. I had to explain to him that it wasn't the pepper spray that deteriorated, but it was the propellant. Believe me when a dog is attacking, you don't want to have a fizz coming out of the end of your pepper spray.
We started discussing why the USPS issues pepper sprays to letter carriers in the first place. As I found out from Mike, they are the first line of defense for them against dog attacks. There are more dog attacks and dog bites on letter carriers than any other group of people aside from children under the age of five.
Every year in the United States over 5 million people are attacked by dogs with close to 1 million of them requiring hospitalization or emergency room treatment. Every day 1,000 people get hospitalized with a dog bite and many of those are small children under five.
Mike shared with me some horrific tales and some advice on how to avoid dog attacks. So from Mike's 25 year plus experience as a letter carrier, here are his top tips.
1. Never smile at a growling dog. He sees that as a sign of aggression.
2. If you see a dog that is penned up in a yard or tied to a stake or some solid object, he is more likely to be aggressive than one that is roaming free. So be wary.
3. Never reach over a fence to pet a dog. Many dogs can easily jump a 3 foot fence.
4. Learn to read a dog's body language. If a dog is running at you with a loping gait, he wants to play. If the dog approaches you with its body straight and stiff with his head, shoulders and hips all in line, he is in an attack mode.
5. Always carry something with you that can be used as a blocking tool; a stick, a cane or some such device or in a pinch your shoe will work. Better the dog attack your shoe than bite your arm or your leg.
6. And like the USPS always carry a product for your self-defense, such as a dog pepper spray, with you when you are near an area where you know dogs hang out.
I used to carry the telescopic stun baton and had to use it on a couple of occasions. But now I carry the Mace pepper gun because it has a range of 25 feet.