The U.S. Postal Service delivered biting news last week. Indianapolis ranks No. 19 for dog attacks to postal employees.
“I’m not surprised at all,” said Larry King, a 12-year postal worker on the near Eastside.
King hasn’t been bitten he said, but, “I’ve been chased and nearly attacked at least a dozen times.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs bite nearly 4.7 million Americans each year, more than half are children. However, the postal service has seen its fair share, which is why each year they dedicate a week to promote the prevention of dog bites.
Along with the postal service, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Veterinary Medical Association and others, are driving home the message that dog bites nationwide are a critical issue and that education can help prevent dog attacks to people of all ages.
Last year, Ria Thomas’ 6-year-old son Marcus was bitten by a pit bull during a family barbecue.
“We did take him to the emergency room although the bite wasn’t severe. We wanted to make sure the bite wasn’t infected,” she said. “It was one of the scariest things I have ever experienced. I advise all parents to be aware of all dogs – pit bull or not.”
The Postal Service says it places the safety of its employees as a top priority. Letter carriers fearing for their safety due to a loose or unrestrained pet may stop delivery and ask homeowners to pick up their mail at the Post Office until the pet is restrained.
In cases where a carrier sees a dog roaming and can’t discern where it resides, delivery could be interrupted to the entire neighborhood.
How to avoid a dog attack
- Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
- Don’t run past the dog. The dog’s natural instinct is to chase and catch you.
- If a dog threatens you, don’t scream. Avoid eye contact and try to remain motionless until the dog leaves. Then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
- Never approach a strange dog, especially one that is tethered or confined.
- Always let a dog see and sniff you before petting the animal.
- If you are knocked down by a dog, curl into a ball and protect your face with your hands.
Dog bites drive up insurance payouts
Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of homeowners insurance liability claims paid in 2011, costing nearly $479 million in the U.S., according to the Insurance Information Institute.
State Farm, the largest writer of homeowners insurance in the U.S., paid more than $109 million on nearly 3,800 dog bite claims in 2011.
The Insurance Information Institute’s analysis of homeowner’s insurance data found that the average cost of dog bite claims in the U.S. was $29,396 in 2011, up 53.4 percent from $19,162 in 2004. Medical costs and the sizes of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs have all outpaced inflation, the organization said.
High payouts on dog bites are happening because more people own dogs, they live closer to one another, and parents are more likely to get advanced medical care for their children after a bite, said Bob Skow, CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents of Iowa.
“Forty years ago, a kid got bit, Mom and Dad didn’t take him to a plastic surgeon,” he said. “Nowadays they do.”
There are 78.2 million dogs in the U.S., according to the American Pet Products Association, one dog for every four people.