KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City ranks among the worst cities in the nation for dog attacks on mail carriers.
In 2018, there were 31 dog attacks on mail carriers in KC, according to the United States Postal Service, down from 32 in 2017. That puts Missouri tied at 15th with Denver and Baltimore.
“I get the story from folks all the time that 'my dog won`t bite,' said Michael McDonald, who has been a mail carrier for nearly 36 years. “Well, your dog may not bite you, but that doesn't mean it`s not going to bite the postal worker.”
McDonald has been bitten twice by dogs during his career with the USPS. He barely escaped another attack three months ago when two dogs that were loose inside a fenced yard hopped that fence.
“The dogs took two steps and absolutely flew over the fence. I ended up on the top of this vehicle,” he recalled.
McDonald said he doesn’t blame the dog, but rather the owner.
“They’re trying to protect their home, their family. That is what a dog is for,” he said.
Dr. Wayne Hunthausen at Westwood Animal Hospital said it’s important to address aggressive behavior in dogs early in their lives. He added that dogs attack for a number of reasons.
“If you can imagine a dog that has a little bit of a territorial protective bent and it sits home all day and it's at a window and people are passing by, typically that dog is going to bark and growl and 90% of people go away. [But the] mailman doesn’t,” Hunthausen said.
He said there are three steps dog owners can take to stop aggressive behavior.
- Avoidance: Don’t expose your dog to triggered situations
- Interruption: Have an effective way of stopping bad behavior
- Reward: Recognize quiet and good behavior
“Start right away giving the idea that [mail carriers] are in and out and around the neighborhood are good,” Hunthausen said.
McDonald said his message to pet owners is simple. He asked that owners “be responsible,” not just for the sake of mail carriers but for everyone in the neighborhood.
If you live in Missouri and your dog bites someone, you can be liable even if you never suspected your dog could be aggressive. Kansas has a “one bite rule,” meaning a dog owner can`t be liable unless your dog has attacked someone before.
Houston ranked No. 1 on the USPS dog attack list with 75 bites reported in 2018. St. Louis also made the top 20 list with 30 bites in 2018.