Canada Post warns dog owners

Canada Post has launched a public awareness campaign to remind homeowners to keep their dogs from roaming unsupervised where they might cross paths with letter carriers.

500 letter carriers get bitten each year

Canada Post has launched a public-awareness campaign to remind homeowners to keep their dogs from roaming around their yards unsupervised where they might cross paths with letter carriers.

The Crown corporation says about 500 employees are bitten each year.

Vancouver letter carrier Neil Melly knows the bite some dogs can deliver.

As soon as he saw a Rottweiler wandering around the front yard along his Vancouver-area mail route last year, Melly knew his day had taken an uneasy turn.

'I had a pretty good rapport with dogs before the attack.'—Neil Melly, letter carrier

Melly, a nine-year veteran at Canada Post, had seen the dog before, but the animal was always restricted to the balcony.

Not this time.

"The front door was open, and it [the dog] was loose in the front  yard and I thought to myself, 'This is not good,"' the slight 36-year-old recalled.

"I just remained motionless on the street. I'm not going to make any sudden movements, totally calm and still, and it still just locked onto my leg."

Melly suffered some cuts, but was back at work the next day.

Not long after, however, he was attacked again by a Labrador retriever cross, and this time his injuries were worse. He required stitches and missed two weeks of work.

And he hasn't looked at dogs the same way since.

"I was very nervous [when I returned to work], I just didn't trust dogs," said Melly. "I had a pretty good rapport with dogs before the attack, but you just feel like every dog is going to bite you. It's on my mind at all times."

Up to owners to control their pets

Animal psychologist Stanley Coren, speaking at Canada Post's North Vancouver delivery centre as a crowd of workers listened in, agreed it's largely up to owners to protect the public from their pets.

"If you give a dog a basic dog obedience class, that results in … an 80 per cent reduction in the likelihood that dog will be involved in a biting incident," said Coren.

It's common sense not to leave your dog out in the yard if you're expecting a delivery, he said. If the owner does it anyway, there's a simple solution, he said.

"You don't go into a yard if there's a dog there — it's that simple. You don't want to do anything where the dog feels its territory is invaded, even if it's a small dog."

Letter carriers do have the right to refuse delivery if they encounter a dog that makes them feel unsafe.

They're trained to recognize aggressive dog behaviour and protect themselves in the event of an attack, such as using their satchels as a barrier. They can now also carry pepper spray.

Last year, Canada Post told them they could no longer bring dog food or treats along with them over concerns the practice could put them, or substitute carriers who arrive without a tasty treat, at risk.

But the corporation in charge of the nation's mail says the ultimate responsibility still rests with pet owners.

"What we really want is the homeowners to be aware, and we call it proper animal ownership," said Canada Post spokesman John Caines. "If they take care of their animal, whether it's our people or the gas-meter reader or kids who are delivering newspapers, everybody should be fine."