Long Beach mailman Juan Barrios shows a photo of himself after he was attacked by three Australian Shepherds over a decade ago. He keeps it in his satchel as a reminder to himself and others. Photos by Stephanie Rivera.
Long Beach made the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) top 30 list for cities with the most dog attacks on mail carriers in 2015, the government agency announced last week.
The city tied with Detroit, Michigan for 15th place, with 32 dog attacks last year, according to a release. In 2014, there were 27 dog attacks in Long Beach.
USPS officials announced their annual dog attack rankings by city during a news conference in Houston—where postal employees suffered 77 dog attacks last year, placing the city at the top of the USPS's list.
Rounding out the top five cities were San Diego and Cleveland Ohio tied for second place with 58 dog attacks, Chicago, Illinois and Dallas, Texas tied for third place with 57, Los Angeles at fourth place with 56 dog attacks, and Louisville, Kentucky at fifth place with 51 dog attacks. For a full list of the 51 cities listed in the rankings, click here.
“Dogs are protective in nature and may view our letter carriers handing mail to their owner as a threat,” said USPS Safety Director Linda DeCarlo at the news conference.
A total of 6,549 employees throughout the country were attacked last year, officials stated.
Long Beach mailman Juan Barrios encounters a loose dog along his route last summer.
During the news conference—which also served to launch National Dog Bite Prevention Week, running May 15-21—DeCarlo unveiled two new safety measures to alert mail carriers of canines on their delivery routes.
The first went into effect May 13 on usps.com’s Package Pickup application, where customers are asked to indicate if there is a dog at their address when they scheduled a package pickup.
The second measure takes effect later this spring. The mobile delivery devices that letter carriers use to scan packages to confirm delivery will include a feature that allows carriers to note if there is a dog at an address. Officials said this measure is especially helpful for substitutes who fill-in for letter carriers on their days off.
Half of all 4.5 million Americans bitten by dogs annually are children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Many attacks to children are by the family pet or a dog familiar to the child, so it’s important to keep children and dogs separate, especially if a dog is known to act aggressively,” officials stated.
Long Beach mailman Juan Barrios jokes around with a resident and her dog last summer.
The USPS provided the following tips regarding dog owners and letter carriers:
- If a letter carrier delivers mail or packages to your front door, place your dog in a separate room and close that door before opening the front door. Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to get at strangers.
- Dog owners should keep the family dog secured. Parents should remind their children not to take mail directly from letter carriers in the presence of the family pet as the dog may view the letter carrier handing the mail to a child as a threatening gesture.
- The Postal Service places the safety of its employees as a top priority. If a letter 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.
In Long Beach, longtime USPS employee Juan Barrios said mail carriers aren’t anti-dogs but “anti-dumb people” who can’t control their pets.
Over a decade ago Barrios was attacked by three Australian Shepherds who escaped from a house on his route. He was caught so off guard that he couldn’t use his pepper spray, instead swinging his satchel at one and throwing mail at another before falling to the ground.
Before he knew it he was on his knees bleeding. Doctors told him that if one of the dog’s fangs had gotten a little bit closer to his eyeball, it would have "popped out," according to Barrios. The incident left him traumatized and landed him in therapy sessions soon after. The dogs were eventually euthanized.
“A lot of people said ‘I’d never deliver mail again,’ not me,” Barrios said. “I said I’m just glad I kept my vision.”
Long Beach mailman Juan Barrios delivers mail last summer.