WASHINGTON – The dog chasing a mail carrier may seem funny in the comics, but it’s no joke to the post office, which says more than 3,400 of its workers are bitten each year.
Medical expenses, workers’ compensation and legal bills cost the Postal Service an estimated $65 million annually, and that’s why the agency is promoting National Dog Bite Awareness week May 16-22.
Overall, 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs annually, more than half of them children, officials said.
Joining the agency is the American Veterinary Medical Association, which warned that while dogs serve as wonderful companions there are times when they can pose a danger.
When a dog is in pain, feels threatened or is competing for resources such as food or space, even the gentlest dog can bite, Michael Chaddock of the veterinary association explained Wednesday.
Kelly Voigt, 12, of Palatine, Ill., was attacked by a dog when she was 7 and now takes part in a program called Prevent the Bite to help other children avoid the danger.
Her acronym – WASP – instructs children to approach only leashed dogs accompanied by their owners.
•W: Wait and watch the dog’s body language, looking out for angry or frightened dogs.
•A: Ask the owner for permission to pet the animal.
•S: Let the pet sniff you.
•P: Pet the dog in the direction of his fur.