When the Cruz family from Houston, Texas, looked at their security camera footage, they couldn’t believe what they saw: Their mail carrier had doused their three lap dogs with pepper spray. The footage was clear. The dogs were barking and jumping but they were clearly behind the thick metal fence and the mailbox was outside. There seemed to be no reason for the attack on the pups.
“They’re little dogs behind the fence. They don’t deserve that. Just put the mail in and go to the next house,” Jose Cruz told the local media about the horrifying scene.
Cruz went to the local television station to tell his story after a failed attempt to talk to the post office directly. His wife Linda Cruz made a complaint but no one took down her name and address or seemed concerned about the issue — even when she explained the dogs couldn’t open their eyes for three hours after being sprayed.
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When contacted by Care2, the United States Postal Service would not answer any questions regarding the details of the attack or what the proper procedure for mail carriers is when feeling threatened by a dog.
“The Postal Service takes the issue of dog bite prevention very seriously,” stated Mark Saunders, the senior public relations representative for the U.S. Postal Service in an email. “Local postal officials are conducting an investigation and will take appropriate action, as needed, pending the results.”
In May of this year, the U.S. postal service announced new safety measures to protect mail carriers from dog bites — which are not just a cliched joke but a real concern with 6,549 bites in 2015.
Among the measures were people having to indicate the presence of a dog when scheduling a package pick up and mail carriers using their mobile delivery device to note the presence of a dog at a house so the information can be passed on to fill-in mail carriers on their days off.
If a mail carrier feels threatened, says the announcement, “the owner may be asked to pick up the mail at the Post Office until the carrier is assured the pet has been restrained. If the dog is roaming the neighborhood, the pet owner’s neighbors may be asked to pick up their mail at the Post Office as well.”
There is no mention of mail carriers being instructed or allowed to use pepper spray as a form of protection, yet the Cruz family is not the first to have their dogs sprayed.
In 2015, a man in Greenville, S.C., had his therapy dog — a five year old Dachshund — sprayed right in front of him. The postal service justified the spraying because the dog was unleashed. Later that year in Ft. Worth, Texas, a woman saw her Bichon Frise get sprayed by her mail carrier even when the dog was inside the fence and had no way to reach the man.
In order to protect mail carriers, the U.S. Postal Service makes a few recommendations — though it seems they can be used to protect the dogs too:
Find out your mail carrier’s schedule and place the dog indoors when you know the mail will be delivered.
Make sure you close the door of the room where the dog is before opening the front door to the mail carrier as they are often faster (and sneakier) than we give them credit for.
Don’t allow kids to take the mail directly from the mail carrier’s hand when the family dog is around. They might see the gesture as a threat to the child.