Mail carriers are scrambling in Scranton this spring after seven dog bite attacks—the most in recent memory. Letter carrier Lyn Sottile was bitten by a chocolate Labrador that ran through an invisible fence, bit her leg and punctured the can of mace she carries. The injury took her off the route for a week, according to local news reports.
Postal workers are victims of only some of the more than 4.7 million dog bites annually. Each year 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites; half of them children. Of those injured, 386,000 require treatment in an emergency department and about 16 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children 5 to 9 years old are the most vulnerable.
As part of their training, letter carriers are told: Don't be fooled when a resident says, "My dog won't bite." That's good advice, as is the following:
Don't approach an unfamiliar dog;
If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still;
Avoid direct eye contact with a dog;
Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first;
Don't disturb a dog while she's sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy, or caring for puppies;
Don't run from a dog, its natural instinct is to chase you.
Not surprisingly, having a dog in the home results in a higher incidence of dog bites. The more dogs, the more likelihood of bad encounters. Adults with two or more dogs in the household are five times more likely to be bitten than those living without dogs at home, says the CDC.
That's why it's important to take precautions if you are considering getting a dog as a pet. Because so many dog bites happen to young children, the ASPCA recommends waiting until your child is at least 10 years old before getting a dog. When you do, the main safety lesson for children is to not chase or tease dogs they know and to avoid dogs they don't know.
Meanwhile in Scranton, postal officials are asking folks to keep an eye on their pets, including the cat that bit an eighth carrier. Me-ow!