Beware the dog!
U.S. Stamp Notes by John M. Hotchner
Linn’s reader Mike Pappas sent the card about preventing dog bites shown in Figure 1. Addressed “Postal Customer” it was circulated in Detroit, Mich.
The message on the card begins, “In a continuing effort to reduce the number of dog attacks, this postcard is a reminder to all residents to help letter carriers deliver your mail safely without any interruptions.”
The front of the card has an optically variable image. At first you see an intimidating dog at rest, but when you turn the card the dog appears ready to sink its teeth into the nearest human.
There are at least two different weeks set outside each year to bring awareness to the problem of dog bites. National Dog Bite Prevention Week, the second full week in April each year, is a project of the National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition, and the USPS sponsors National Dog Bite Awareness Week, held June 14-20 in 2020.
In promoting the 2020 week, the Postal Service said: “Nearly 5,800 postal employees were attacked by dogs last year, but that pales in comparison to the 4.5 million Americans attacked each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of victims are small children, the elderly and Postal Service carriers, in that order.”
The number of letter carriers attacked by dogs has been dropping. The USPS reports that the 2019 total was “more than 200 fewer than in 2018 and more than 400 fewer since 2017.”
Detroit ranked 15th among U.S. cities with 26 incidents during 2019. First place went to Houston (85 incidents), followed by Los Angeles (74) and Chicago (54). Each incident has the potential to result in insurance claims, lost work hours and discussions with the offending owners.
If owners do not curb their animals, they can be penalized by having their mail deliveries suspended. Letter carriers are empowered to refuse delivery service if they feel threatened. This can cause delays, as illustrated by the 1984 cover in Figure 2 with a “Mail delayed due to loose dog in the neighborhood” handstamp. Another 1984 cover I own has the handstamp “Delivery Curtailed — Loose Dog.”
The Postal Service even has a “Dog Warning Card” that can be given to delivery personnel when it is known ahead of time that there is a potential problem. A 1986 version of the card is shown in Figure 3.
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