Dog attacks on USPS carriers increases in D.C. area

(Photo: Flickr/Vaguely Artistic)

The old, unofficial creed for the United States Postal Service reads, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

Dogs, however, are a different story.

The relationship between dog and mailman has always been a tenuous one, and encounters between the two are on pace to eclipse last year's number by a long shot.

In 2011, 55 cases of dog attacks on mail carriers were reported in the Capital Region, which encompasses the District of Columbia and parts of suburban Maryland, and 38 took place in Northern Virginia. So far this year, 37 and 32 attacks have been reported in each of those areas already respectively.

"People end up in the hospital for a good while, or it can range to nips from the dogs," United States Postal Service spokesperson Laura Dvorak said. "They're all scary and they're all traumatic for the carriers."

The USPS has taken extra steps to help curtail the problem, including sending out mailers to residents urging them to keep their dogs inside and away from mail carriers. That's not much comfort to letter carrier Dennis Devonish, though, whose Northeast D.C. route takes him to homes where he knows dogs are waiting.

"There's a big, old shepherd and he is pretty scary," Devonish said. "He's always looking at me like, 'One day, I'm going to get you.'"

Devonish knows that he has to keep his eyes peeled, too - he has been attacked before.

"Sometimes they come at you so fast, you don't get the chance to get in your satchel and pull out your mace," he said.