WASHINGTON (AP) — Don’t scream. Avoid eye contact. Don’t run.

Those are just a few tips offered by the U.S. Postal Service to avoid dog bites after more than 5,600 mail carriers were victims last year of dog attacks. The widespread problem cost the U.S. Postal Service nearly $1.2 million in medical expenses, the government said Thursday.

Houston and other warmer cities were most often the site of dog attacks, although letter carriers were bitten in more than 1,400 cities around the country.

The Postal Service released the numbers in advance of annual dog bite prevention week, which begins next week. Its goal is to try and reduce the number of dog attacks, both on mail carriers and in the general population. Last year more than 4.7 million Americans were bitten, most of them children.

“Dog attacks are a nationwide issue and not just a postal problem,” said Matthew Lopez, Houston postmaster. “Working with animal behavior experts, we’ve developed tips to avoid dog attacks and, for dog owners, tips for practicing responsible pet ownership.”

According to the Postal Service, the top cities for dog attacks after Houston are Columbus, Ohio; San Diego, Calif.; Los Angeles; Louisville, Ky.; San Antonio, Texas; St. Louis, Mo.; Cleveland; Phoenix; Minneapolis; Portland, Ore.; Denver; Philadelphia; Sacramento, Calif.; and Seattle.

Tips from the post office to avoid being bitten:

–Don’t run past a dog. The dog’s natural instinct is to chase and catch prey.

–If a dog threatens you, don’t scream. Avoid eye contact. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.

–Don’t approach a strange dog, especially one that’s tethered or confined.

–If you believe a dog is about to attack, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.

And for dog owners:

–When a carrier comes to your home, keep your dog inside, away from the door, in another room.

–Don’t let your child take mail from the carrier in the presence of your dog. Your dog’s instinct is to protect the family.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (14)
  1. NO BARKING says:

    big dogs dont belong in the city a lot of them have carelesss owners who let them BARK for HOURS on end and should be fined heavily

    1. Ruoari says:

      I’m sorry, but comment is stupid. Small dogs bark for hours as well. I’ve never had a problem with a neighbors large dog barking all day, but I have several neighbors with small dogs who bark the entire time the owner is away.

      1. jld says:

        I would agree with both of you to an extent; I don’t think big dogs belong in the city (as in no room to work off big dog energy) unless owners are willing and able to get them the exercise and play time they need in order to keep them happy.
        However, I have a large breed and a small breed and the little one is WAY more of an issue than the big one; in our neighborhood, the little ones that are chained outside are for sure the problem “children”. I’ve seen and heard it in other neighborhoods we’ve lived in as well. Now of course this doesn’t mean big dogs don’t bark incessantly and all little dogs do it, but my experience has been that little dogs are the barkers.

  2. R.D. says:

    The owners should be responsible, not the postal service. If a dog bites it should be put down on the spot. The owner liable and never able to own another.

    1. jld says:

      I don’t believe the dog should be “put down on the spot” but I do believe and agree that the owners should be held accountable 110%; animals instincts to protect cannot be quashed, owners MUST have control in some way or another (and I don’t mean by beating the dogs or keeping them confined all the time, but through training or some other humane method) at ALL times. This will keep the people AND the pets safe.

  3. tom says:

    Our two lb. teacup poodle reciently jumped a 6 foot fence and chased a mailcarrier for 7 blocks before catching him and biting his ankles badly. We appologized but I think he was kind of a poor sport. She is not much larger than a guinea pig.

    1. really says:

      guinea pig’s can bite too; apologizing for “…biting his ankles badly” and expecting someone to be pleased you apologized just doesn’t cut it. Pay the expenses and keep your dog under control; if a 2lb dog can jump a 5ft fence, then I’d say you need to get a bigger fence or keep your dog inside. Shame on you for even suggesting the postal worker should’ve been anything but upset!

  4. tom says:

    My correction: It was a 5 foot fence

    1. alan says:

      If it had been me, your dog would have been left hanging dead on your 5 foot fence.

  5. Valerie says:

    Tom, I’m a dog lover & no dogs should be barking outside for any lenth of time- as a matter of fact I think all dogs should be kept inside like my 2 little ones i have now, but have had big dogs also. As far as a person being a BAD SPORT- I don’t think any dog no matter how small should bite & no person should be expected to be a good sport about being bitten. You mention being bitten BADLY – you’re lucky he didn’t kick them to death. RD is right about us being responsible for the medical bills not the post office. If it was a kid they bit it would be VERY bad- think about the dogs just chasing a kid & he runs into the street in terror……………..

  6. Cry me a river says:

    Tom, whether your story is true or not it’s hilarious. Valerie you’re the kind of person that thinks EVERY kid should make the team. Be quiet. That is all.

    1. vicki says:

      Cry me a river – obviously you’ve never been chased or bitten by a dog, even if it was a small one, or you would never have said it was hilarious. My husband is a retired letter carrier and he had his share of dog bites – one of them very serious. He is a dog lover and would carry treats for the ones on his route, but that still did not stop a few from biting.

  7. Cry me a river says:

    Vicki, said dog was the size of a guinea pig. Have you ever seen a guinea pig? A fat 6 year old could kick one hard enough to stop it. And I’m certain your husband could hold his own against something that small. And in all honesty, you can’t tell me seeing a guinea pig sized dog chase a grown man down the street wouldn’t be somewhat funny. I agree a big dog chasing me would suck badly however that isn’t what I was ever talking about.

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