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Letter Carriers Campaign for Relief From Biting Dogs

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Even the letter carriers say it: An all-postal chorus line is not a pretty sight.

Especially in the Houston and Santa Ana postal districts, the top dog bite capitals in the country.

Last week, in cities nationwide, letter carriers lined up in front of the media to show their dog bite scars as part as an effort to focus attention on a problem that gets worse in the summer, when kids and pets are milling about more than usual.

And, as part of Dog Bite Prevention Week, the U.S. Postal Service released dog bite statistics for its 85 districts nationwide.

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The Houston area ranked No. 1, with 117 dog bites reported by letter carriers last year.

Santa Ana’s district was No. 2, with 101. (The district covers 95 cities or communities in parts of Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.)

“I have a real concern for their safety,” said Santa Ana Postmaster Rosemarie Fernandez.

In Orange County alone, letter carriers reported 82 dog bites last year--more than either the San Jose or Chicago postal district, which tied for third place on the list of dog bite zones with 75 incidents each.

Postal officials said they aren’t sure why some areas have more dog bite problems than others. But there tend to be more incidents in districts with warmer climates in which dogs spend more time outside, and in districts with large populations of dog owners, said postal service spokesman Mark Saunders in Washington, D.C.

The big, mean-looking dogs are not usually the culprits, he said.

“It’s not typical that it’s the Rottweilers and the pit bulls,” he said. “We have a large problem with the typical dog you keep as the family pet. Dogs are territorial in nature.”

Former postal carrier Willie Schertzing learned that lesson--from a pit bull.

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Nine years ago, she walked up to a house in Huntington Beach to deliver the mail.

The family’s pit bull saw her and jumped through the locked screen door to attack. The dog knocked her to the ground, and she lost consciousness. It bit her leg five times.

“He took a bite out of me emotionally, psychologically and physically,” said Schertzing, 62, who became disabled as a result and now works as a post office clerk. “I still have scars.”

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

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Dog Bites

Among the 2,851 postal carriers bitten by dogs nationwide last year, the Santa Ana district had the second-highest number. Top five districts:

Houston: 117

Santa Ana: 101

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San Jose: 75

Chicago: 75

San Antonio: 72

Owner Tips

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* Neuter your dog; unneutered dogs are three times more likely to bite.

* Take your dog to obedience training.

* Do not let children take mail from the carrier. This triggers a dog’s protective instincts.

* Put your dog on a leash or inside the house, away from the front door, during mail deliveries.

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Source: The Humane Society of the United States


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