This week is dog bite prevention week.

Dog bites are a serious problem for letter carriers. Yet, for every letter carrier bitten, hundreds of children also needlessly suffer the pain and trauma of dog attacks.

Whatever the reasons, dog attacks are a serious problem for the entire community, and not just our letter carriers, who were victimized by nearly 5,900 dog attacks last year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s an average of 11 dog attacks every delivery day, and that figure does not include the number of threatening incidents that did not result in injury.

However, these numbers pale in comparison with the more than 4.5 million people — mostly children and the elderly — who suffer injuries from dog attacks each year.

In the Gardiner area last year, dogs interfered with a significant number of mail deliveries throughout Gardiner, West Gardiner, Randolph, Pittston and Farmingdale. Most of the interrupted deliveries were because of dogs chained or tied up near the mail box or by the path to the mail box. Others were unrestrained dogs running loose in neighborhoods.

Fortunately, most dog bites can be prevented through responsible pet ownership.

If a letter carrier needs to deliver a certified letter or a package to you, put your dog in a separate room before opening your front door. Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to get at strangers.

Nationally, the number of carriers bitten by dogs has declined over the years. This is because of greater cooperation from dog owners, stricter leash laws and stepped-up efforts to educate letter carriers and the public about dealing with the problem.

Our letter carriers are vigilant and dedicated, but we may be forced to stop mail delivery at an address — or entire block — if a letter carrier is threatened by a vicious dog.

In some instances, Postal Service employees have sued and collected damages for dog attack injuries. We can’t control people’s dogs; only dog owners can do that.

While some attribute attacks on letter carriers to dogs’ inbred aversion to uniforms, experts say the psychology actually runs much deeper. Every day that a letter carrier comes into a dog’s territory, the dog barks and the letter carrier leaves. Day after day the dog sees this action repeated. After a week or two, the dog feels invincible against intruders. Once the dog gets loose, there’s a good chance it will attack.

Dog owners should remind their children about the need to keep the family dog secured. We also recommend parents ask their children not to take mail directly from letter carriers. A dog may see handing mail to a child as a threatening gesture.

These simple reminders and helpful tips can reduce the hazard of dog attacks. Help us to help you this spring and summer.

Audrey L. Murphy is the Postmaster in Gardiner.

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