Dog attacks on Canada Post carriers on the rise

Canada Post workers across the country are reporting a higher-than-usual number of attacks by canines, with 41 incidents recorded in the first three weeks of July.

41 reports of bites so far in July

In the dog days of summer, Canada Post workers across the country are reporting a higher-than-usual spike in attacks by canines, with 41 incidents recorded in the first three weeks of July.

Canada Post is reminding dog owners to keep their pets leashed and a safe distance away from mail slots. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The problem, according to some Ontario letter carriers, is that owners tend to unleash their pets and let them roam their yards as the weather heats up outdoors.

To ensure the safety of its employees, the country's primary postal carrier is reminding dog owners to restrain their pets — regardless of the animals' size — and keep them a fair distance from mail slots, mail boxes, and areas where delivery people may be approaching from the street.

Even smaller dogs are capable of inflicting serious injuries to people they feel may be trespassing on their owners' property, said Anick Losier, a spokesperson for Canada Post.

"We never know what a dog can do, whether it's small or big, it doesn't matter, really, because it can be quite unnerving for our people," Losier said.

Average 500 attacks a year

Although dog bites are much more common during the summertime, the 41 reports so far in July is higher than usual. On average, about 500 attacks are recorded annually across the country.

"What happens, especially at this time of year as letter carriers take their vacation, we'll see new letter carriers and maybe the dog it not used to this person," Losier said. "And therefore, they will have a tendency to want to protect their owner's property."

Mark Roper, who has been delivering the mail in Ottawa for 21 years, still feels edgy about dogs on his route ever since he was viciously mauled by a pitbull in March 2010.

"It just charged me, without making a sound. Jumped on to my arm and grabbed my forearm. I was kicking at him, screaming at him, punching at the dog," Roper recounted. "When he finally released, he ran back towards his house, but then I saw him run, turn around again, and charge at me a second time."

Thumb bitten off

Roper was taken to the hospital to get wounds on his forearm treated with surgical glue, and still bears the scars.

In the Ottawa area alone last year, there were 21 dog attacks reported, most of which were serious enough to require medical attention.

There was another serious incident in Belleville, Ont., this year, with a postal worker losing a thumb after encountering a dog that didn't recognize her.

"The lady letter carrier was a relief worker, so therefore it's not part of her regular route," Losier said. "The dog didn't know her and he was a pitbull mastiff, and he bit off her thumb. So they can be very serious and even if it's just loud barking, it can be unnerving for somebody."

As for those pet owners who ignore safety precautions regarding pet restraints, they may just end up having to wait a little longer for their mail. Losier said delivery service can be suspended from certain addresses if a letter carrier deems the property unsafe. Residents would then have to pick up their mail from the nearest post office.

With files from the CBC's David Gerow