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Humane Education Leads to Progress
For Informed Dog Owners

Vision Statement: We envision a society free from discrimination, where responsibility, education, love and compassion allow humans to fully respect and understand man's best friend.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mail Carrier Safety-are they truly concerned?

Almost daily I hear another report of a Mail Carrier being attacked by a dog. These dogs, more often than not, are animals that are usually confined on their own property be it by fence, chain or behind a screened door. Confined until something or someone provokes the dog enough to jump a fence, break a chain or force its way out a door. I recently sent a letter to the Postmaster General in an effort to address the issue and offer suggestions.

Mail Carriers are in the unique position of being a provocation for many dogs, without meaning to be. There is no other person who “invades” the dog’s yard on a daily basis, usually around the same time each day. This creates an unhealthy and potentially dangerous pattern. In the dogs view, “Here comes that person, walking through my yard again! Now they are closer, oh my gosh, they are on the porch! I must bark and defend this territory and make them leave.” As the dog is barking and behaving in this manner the Mail Carrier finishes delivery and leaves the property. This creates an action/reward scenario for the dog and the dog is conditioned to act aggressively toward the Mail Carrier. This is reinforced daily, six days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. With this level of reinforcement, if given the opportunity, the dog will take it to the next level, resulting in injuries to Mail Carriers. Unfortunately, many dog owners are not overly responsible, and are either not aware or unwilling to take the precautions necessary to safeguard the Mail Carriers.

I am not quite sure why the USPS feels it is necessary to place the Mail Carriers in this vulnerable position when there are alternatives available. Carriers would be much safer if they were able to deliver mail from the safety of a vehicle rather than on foot. There is no reason why mail needs to be delivered to the door. Most neighborhoods are designed in a manner which would accommodate curbside mail delivery via a standard mailbox. If mail theft is a concern, the consumer could purchase a locking mailbox. In neighborhoods where on street parking is the only option, central mail distribution boxes could be installed, similar to those found in many apartment complexes. I am sure the cost of installing these boxes would be much less than the medical expenses incurred by Mail Carriers that are attacked by dogs.

I received a response from the USPS who wrote "We would prefer to deliver mail from the vehicle to a curbside mailbox and avoid the consequences of unwanted interaction between the dog and the carrier, just as you suggest. However, the vast majority of the population does not see it quite this way. We are just finishing a response to a Congressional inquiry as to why we will not deliver to the door of a man whose dog DID attack and injure a carrier. And when we do try to relocate mailboxes to either the curbside or a centralized delivery point we are met with a barrage of hostile letters." "I am sure any major change such as this would face insurmountable objections from the general public as well as their elected representatives."

Can it be? Can those people and representatives who are chanting about "Dangerous Dogs" really have a serious objection to curbside mail delivery? Is slipping on a pair of shoes and walking 50 feet to a mailbox really such an inconvenience? Why is the USPS at the mercy of these people? Why are elected representatives not concerned about mail carrier safety unless a situation can feed into the dangerous breed hysteria? I think the USPS and local representatives need to take a stand and have concern for the carriers. I think the general public needs to get on board and send letters to the USPS and their city leaders in support of curbside mail delivery.


happypitbull said...

I've had all three forms of delivery (door, curbside, mass box) and I never saw the advantage to door delivery unless you're really old, really lazy, or you receive a lot of packages.

I enjoy the daily trip out to the curb to get the mail and I usually couple it with pulling in the trash cans or pulling some weeds out of the garden. When I lived in the house with door delivery, it always really creeped me out to know that someone was walking up to my door and silently leaving things there... and sometimes out the front window I'd catch movement out of the corner of my eye--it would be the mailman, of course, but it still scared the heck out of me.

BUT I don't believe USPS's line that "the public wouldn't let us" move to curbside or mass boxes. Please. I don't think anyone believes the public is "letting" them raise the price of stamps. USPS does what they want. If they really wanted to change delivery methods, I'm sure they could present a convincing case.

In fact, some years ago, my dad was part of a group of people who requested that USPS pick one form of delivery for all its customers in the interest of fairness, because for some bizarre reason, USPS was arbitrarily deciding who got what type of delivery and their decisions didn't seem to hinge on any sort of logic. In my old neighborhood they installed mass mail units for most houses, but there was one single house on the corner that, for no obvious reason, got a curbside mailbox (the people who lived there didn't know why they got the curbside box either).

I definitely agree that a less "personal" form of mail delivery would be ideal for mail carriers' safety. But I'm not really convinced that USPS isn't part of the problem.

Brian Cluxton said...

Great points. Every dog I've ever owned or that my family owned has hated the mail carrier. It would be easier, cheaper and safer if USPS did centralized or curbside delivery. Of course, not much makes sense with the postal service - they keep raising prices, so people use electronic forms of correspondence more, then they have to raise prices even more - it's a long running cycle. I've thought for a long time that the USPS needs a major overhaul.

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