Pueblo ranks high for dog attacks on postal workers


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Dec 03, 2023

Pueblo ranks high for dog attacks on postal workers

Mail carrier Johnny Morris, who works for the U.S. Postal Service, has been

Mail carrier Johnny Morris, who works for the U.S. Postal Service, has been attacked by dogs seven times since he began his career as a postal worker in Pueblo in 2003.

The most recent attack was in December: Morris was bitten when a dog hopped over a fence, biting him on the wrist and palm of one hand.

"I had to get four stitches, and it took about two months to heal," Morris said.

That attack was one of 14 involving a postal worker in Pueblo last year, which puts the city 22nd in the nation in dog attacks on mail carriers. More than 5,300 postal service employees were attacked by dogs while delivering mail last year, and Pueblo's 14 attacks surpassed much larger cities, including Albuquerque, New Mexico; Salt Lake City; and Oklahoma City.

Aggressive dog behavior is a common safety concern USPS employees face, according to the postal service, so to keep its workers safe, the organization is trying to raise awareness on the prevalence of dog attacks and provide tips for dog owners to be good stewards for safe mail delivery. Morris shared his experiences with dog attacks Tuesday at a news event as part of USPS's annual National Dog Bite Awareness Week public service campaign.

Morris said Tuesday he received another dog bite several years ago on the left side of one ankle that required multiple surgeries to repair.

"Now with it being summer, kids are out there with their dogs, parents not paying attention," he said. "(They say) 'Oh, he's friendly. He doesn't bite, he'll lick you to death.' (But) they still have teeth, they will bite."

Morris said he and other postal carriers ask customers to keep their dogs in the house, keep the door shut, and if necessary, keep their dog in another room around the time they anticipate a mail carrier will come by, especially if they have a package to sign for.

If a mail carrier is bitten, mail is cut off to the individual in question and mail must be picked up from the post office.

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"If we get bit, that's it," Morris said. "You have to get a P.O. box ... it's your life that's important, we all want to keep our fingers and our legs."

John Garza, a team lead for Pueblo USPS's Safety Task Force, said mail carriers are trained in a number of ways to avoid dog bites.

"We have a satchel we carry, we have a dog spray and an air horn — that's last resort; we don't want to hurt the dog," he said.

"You look inside the fence to see if there is anywhere a dog has been running. You look towards the door and see what kind of dog bowl is outside: big bowl, big dog; small bowl, small dog. We carry keys and we jingle them, and dogs will come out if they hear them."

Additionally, he said mail carriers carry scanners that will notify them of a particular dog on a specific block a few houses before they reach that dog's house. Dog warning cards are also packed for the mail carrier to alert them ahead of time.

Despite those safety measures, Morris said most mail carriers he works with have been bitten at least once.

"The younger carriers, now, they're more alert. If they get bit once, they're going to be more alert all the time ... they're looking around, every noise (they hear) they're making sure that dog ain't coming," he said.

If a dog bites a carrier, mail can't be delivered to the house until USPS receives proof the dog has died, Morris said, and the owner may be forced to put down their beloved companion.

"You don't want to lose your pets over an incident like that," he said. "Carriers will turn around and sue that customer, or residence, and we don't want to have to do that. We want to deliver the mail safely and comfortably in an area, and go home and not have to tell my wife, 'Hey, I got bit today."

Pueblo Postmaster Susan Grasmick said she does not know why Pueblo has a higher number of dog bites than some much larger cities but noted that most people in Pueblo seem to own at least one or two dogs.

She said dog attacks on mail carriers in Pueblo have increased in recent years, but she was unable to provide specific numbers on Tuesday.

Grasmick said the postal service is asking customers to simply be responsible dog owners and ensure their dogs are secured.

"Everybody in Pueblo seems to have a dog, and the dog is there not only to be a companion to the customer but also to protect their family," she said.

"The dog is doing what they think they are supposed to do, but we just need to make sure the owner secures that dog because this is my postal family and it's important to me to keep all the carriers safe in the city."

Questions, comments, or story tips? Contact Justin at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jayreutter1.

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