Over 460,000 dog bites happen in Canada every year, and the numbers are rising.
Despite thorough training and awareness reminders, mail carriers are often the victims, including Canada Post employees in Labrador West.
Tina Emberley, a carrier for five years, is one of many victims of a sudden attack. As she carried the mail on the opposite side of the street from dog owners putting a dog into their vehicle, the animal suddenly lunged at her.
“If it wasn’t for the owner being there at that time it would have been worse than this scar. It took me off work for a few days, required stitches and a tetanus shot, and I was put on modified duties for two weeks.”
Emberley thought she was okay to return to her route, but she found herself jumping at every noise. A dog approached her, and her instincts kicked in.
“I didn’t know if he was friendly or not, I just sprayed him. Everyone said after that he was harmless, but I didn’t know – I was so nervous.”
Her manager had another carrier walk the route with her until she felt safe enough to do it alone, but even now she heirs on the side of caution when approaching properties with dogs.
“When I go into someone’s driveway, if there’s a dog there I talk to it to get their demeanor. If I see them growling or if I’m uncomfortable I’ll put the mail back in my bag and keep going.”
She’ll write “Dog was out,” on a sticky note and place it on the stack of mail.
“When I deliver the mail the next day, hopefully they’ll get the hint that’s why they didn’t get their mail.”
Rob King, a carrier for nine months, said he’s already seen his share of dog issues.
“I think a lot of people don’t understand how many times a day we have to deal with a dog issue. Not a day goes by that we don't have one event with a dog.”
It’s reached a point where he sometimes prefers a cloudy day.
“Some days when it's drizzling it's kind of nice because I know I won't have to deal with them,” he said.
An all too common mistake among dog owners is the belief that their pet is incapable of attacking anyone, King said.
“Everyone believes their dog is harmless,” he said. “They think because the dog is eight years old and never bit anyone it never will, but it's a different story when we walk in the driveway. They're protecting their owners, it's not saying they're bad animals because they're not.”
King suggests owners tie their dogs far away from the mailbox and be sure the chain is adequate for the dog.
“It’s the little things that could make it easier and safer for us. You don’t have to tie your dog as close as six feet from the mailbox,” he said. “It’s uncomfortable. If they’re that close and they do get off the leash, you won’t have any reaction time to do anything about it.”
Even though it may cause incessant barking, secure fences or having the dogs inside is the safest solution, King said.
“Barking doesn't distress us at all if we know they're in a safe space. And when it keeps happening, we'll know there is no danger and the dogs are always in a secure area.”
Feeling safe and confident to deliver means there will be less instances when a customer won’t receive their mail, which would make everyone happy, King said.
“We don’t like to return mail. It adds up to five or 10 pounds that we have to lug around all day, sort it again, and add that on to the next day’s weight. It doesn’t do us any favors not to deliver it,” he said.