INDIANAPOLIS -- The Postal Service continues its tradition of calling attention to one of the nation's most commonly reported public health problems -- dog attacks and bites.
From nips and bites to actual attacks, violent dog behavior continues to pose a serious threat to postal employees. Last year, nearly 2,900 Postal Service employees were victimized by dogs, more than 60 in Indiana.
These statistics are part of the reason the Postal Service recognizes National Dog Bite Prevention Week, an annual event in May designed to provide consumers with information on how to be responsible pet owners while increasing awareness of a public health issue.
To spread the word that dog bites are preventable, the Postal Service is working with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
Other organizations include the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons (ASMS), the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM) and Prevent the Bite.
The American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the United States and the American Academy of Pediatrics report that small children, the elderly and Postal Service letter carriers -- in that order -- are the most frequent victims of dog bites. Dog attacks are the most commonly reported childhood public health problem in the United States.
The American Veterinary Medical Association also reports that the number of dog attacks exceeds the reported instances of measles, whooping cough and mumps combined. Dog bite victims account for up to 5 percent of emergency room visits.
"Dog bites and attacks can be prevented with responsible pet ownership," Communications Programs Specialist for the Greater Indiana District Postal Service Kim Yates said. "Many of the bites reported by letter carriers come from dogs whose owners used those famous last words -- my dog won't bite."
To help educate the public about dog bites, the American Veterinary Medical Association developed a brochure, "What you should know about dog bite prevention," offering tips on how to avoid being bitten, what dog owners can do to prevent their dogs from biting and how to treat dog bites.
Tips include: Pick a dog that is a good match for your home, consult your veterinarian for details, socialize your pet and avoid aggressive games with your pet. To access the brochure online, visit www.avms.org/press/publichealth/dogbite/....
The Postal Service places the safety of its employees as a top priority. Letter carriers fearing for their safety due to a loose or unrestrained pet may curtail delivery and ask homeowners to pick up their mail at the Post Office until the carrier is assured the pet is restrained.
In cases where carriers see the dog roaming, delivery could be curtailed to the neighborhood.
How to avoid being bitten
The Postal Service offers these tips when faced with a possible dog attack:
* Don't run past a dog. The dog's natural instinct is to chase and catch prey,
* If a dog threatens you, don't scream. Avoid eye contact. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight,
* Don't approach a strange dog, especially one that's tethered or confined,
* While letter carriers are discouraged from petting animals, people who choose to pet dogs should always let a dog see and sniff them before petting the animal, and
* If you believe a god is about to attack you, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.
How to be a Responsible Dog owner
* Obedience training can teach dogs proper behavior and help owners control their dogs,
* When a carrier comes to your home, keep your dog inside, away from the door in another room,
* Don't let your child take mail from the carrier in the presence of your dog. Your dog's instinct is to protect the family,
* Spay or neuter your dog. Neutered dogs are less likely to bite, and
* Dogs that receive little attention or handling, or are left tied up for long periods of times, frequently turn into biters.