California dogs feast on mail carriers
By comparison, Honolulu is almost a bite-free zone for postal workers
WASHINGTON » For a mail carrier looking to escape dog bites, New York City is the place to go, and California is the place to avoid.
The New York metropolitan area recorded no dog bites of letter carriers last year.
On the other hand, the Santa Ana, Calif., area led the nation with 96 bitten carriers, and three of the top five spots for carriers to get bitten were in the Golden State.
That does not surprise Juan Barrios, a carrier in Long Beach who needed 50 stitches on the right side of his face after being attacked by three dogs in 2001.
"I fought off two, but one got in a lucky bite," Barrios said in a telephone interview.
Carriers are trained in how to defend themselves, he said, and are discouraged from petting or getting close to dogs.
The 2001 case was not the only time Barrios has been attacked, he said, but other times he has been able to defend himself with his mail sack or spray.
It's not unusual to hear jokes about carriers being bitten, but it's no laughing matter to them or the post office, which holds regular dog awareness programs.
Indeed, the post office kicks off dog bite awareness week today with a ceremony in Long Beach.
Some 3,184 letter carriers were bitten by dogs in 2006, the agency said, down slightly from 3,273 the year before.
After the New York metro area, next safest was Alaska with two bites, followed by Honolulu, three, and Maine and Montana with nine each.
Following Santa Ana's 96 bites were Houston, 94; Sacramento, 82; Los Angeles, 77; and South Florida, 71.