GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The cliché about the battle between dogs and postal workers became a frightening reality for a woman Friday who was hospitalized after an attack by two pit bulls. And as more people rely on online shopping delivered by parcel post, the frequency of attacks is on the rise.
Dog attacks on postal workers in the U.S. rose last year to 6,755, up 206 from the previous year and the highest in three decades, according to a report issued this month by the United States Postal Service.
In Michigan, there was a 12 percent increase in attacks on mail carriers, according to USPS statistics.
And Friday, a woman working for the Grand Rapids Post Office became a terrifying part of that story.
The attack came around 9:41 a.m. as the mail carrier made her rounds in the 200 block of Garfield Avenue SW, according to Grand Rapids police.
The two dogs escaped a fenced-in yard and mauled her before the owner secured the dogs, police say.
Blood could be seen on the side of a vehicle where she was attacked, according to a coworker who talked to 24 Hour news 8, but wanted to remain anonymous.
“I know her hand’s bitten up really bad, her arm’s bitten up pretty good, maybe her chin.”
The dogs were confiscated by Kent County Animal Control.
“They’ve been identified as American Staffordshire Terriers,” said Steve Kelso, spokesperson Kent County Health Department.
The woman was out of surgery Friday night with a broken arm, multiple stitches and may need surgery on her face, police said.
The dogs are in the custody of the county as they investigate. The owners are described as cooperative, but could face prosecution.
“Yes, there’s any variety of fines and fees and court time. It’s an actual criminal matter. Our animal control officers are law enforcement officials,” Kelso said.
It’s a problem that has postal carriers living in fear and USPS is working to address.
“We go up to those houses and I’m afraid my life is going to change sometimes,” said the postal worker. “It’s a pretty common thing, it happens quite a bit.”
He said the attacks are terrifying.
“I’m a big boy, I’m 6-foot-5, 245 pounds and I can’t defend myself, maybe against one, but if there’s two, it’s really scary,” he said. “I’ve been attacked at least seven, eight times.”
The post office has an app called Trip Hazards on handheld devices to help warn carriers of mean dogs.
In extreme cases, residents are told to pick up mail at a post office unless the dog is controlled.
The postal worker thinks there needs to be stiffer laws and registration for dogs used for protection.
“People’s lives change every day because of these mean dogs.”
Around 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year by an estimated nearly 80 million dogs living in U.S. homes — about half of those bitten are children.
Here are safety tips from the USPS:
- 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 attack visitors. Dog owners should keep the family pet secured.
- Parents should remind their children and other family members not to take mail directly from letter carriers in the presence of the family pet, as the dog may view the letter carrier handing mail to a family member 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 dog, or if a dog is loose or unleashed, the owner may be asked to pick up mail at a post office until the letter carrier is assured the pet has been restrained. If the dog is roaming the neighborhood, the pet owner’s neighbors also may be asked to pick up their mail at the area’s post office.