At first, all mail carrier Chad Lubrano saw as he walked toward the house in the 2100 block of South Terrace was a front-door screen flapping in the wind. But then a dog stuck its head out.
A big gray pit-bull head.
“Right away, I stopped,” he recalled Friday, the same day that postal officials announced that Wichita ranks No. 15 in the nation in the number of postal carriers attacked by dogs last year – 25. Saturday marked the start of National Dog Bite Prevention Week.
Lubrano could be Wichita’s poster carrier for dog attacks.
It was around noon on March 16 when Lubrano, a 34-year-old with three years’ experience as a carrier, froze after he saw the pit bull’s head emerge.
He was still in the next-door neighbor’s yard when the dog jumped through the screen and charged him. He knew from training and from veteran carriers to yell “No! No! No!” as the dog came at him; the idea is a dog will back off if it thinks you are in charge.
But the pit bull closed in, and using more of his training, Lubrano threw his mail satchel up like a shield.
The 95-pound pit bull lunged and knocked Lubrano – who is 6-foot-2 and weighs 230 pounds – to the ground. Mail was strewn onto the grass.
On the ground, Lubrano kicked at the dog and screamed – “No! No! No! Help! Help!” – desperate to get to his feet and knowing that he needed help.
The dog “kept trying to get toward my face, and that’s when I put my arm in front of me,” he recalled.
“That’s when he took the chunk out … in between my pinkie and index finger.” The dog’s teeth punctured his palm, and its claws slashed Lubrano’s forearm.
He knew someone had to be at the pit bull’s home because the door was open. About a minute after the attack began, a man came from the house and pulled the pit bull off of Lubrano.
In announcing that Wichita ranks 15th nationally in the number of postal carriers attacked by dogs last year, Wichita acting postmaster Cindy Liptak said, “That’s 25 too many.”
“Owners need to restrain their dogs and allow their carriers to deliver the mail safely,” Liptak said in a statement. “We will not wait until a carrier is bitten before taking preventative action.”
The number of attacks puts Wichita on a par with Miami, Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, the statement said. In 2013, Wichita ranked 19th nationally.
Los Angeles was No. 1 in 2014, with 74 dog attacks against postal carrriers, the Postal Service said.
So far this year, there have been 12 dog attacks involving Wichita carriers.
The attacks have been occurring all over the city, Liptak told The Eagle.
The Postal Service said that dog attacks against carriers pale “in comparison to the 4.5 million Americans bitten by dogs annually” and that half of the victims are children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In her statement, Liptak noted the attack on Lubrano, saying he was “very lucky someone was around to pull the dog off of him or it would have been much worse.”
After the pit bull was pulled away, Lubrano left a trail of blood as he walked to his mail truck to call 911. People from the next block had heard his screams and came to his truck to check on him.
The pain he went through in the emergency room was about as bad as the attack, he said.
Because the dog apparently was not current on its rabies shots, Lubrano had to get a shot in each wound on his hand, arm and leg – around 20 shots. It took nine stitches to close the wound between his fingers and three stitches for a puncture in his palm.
A doctor said the scars from the dog’s claws will probably remain on his forearm for the rest of his life.
He’s been through physical therapy and has just been released to resume carrier duty.
But he’s nervous about delivering mail again, he said, and is going to counseling. “It’s been pretty tough on me mentally, emotionally,” he said Friday afternoon.
Because of the dog attack, people on that stretch of South Terrace now must use mailboxes at the curb, he said.
As far as he knows, the pit bull still lives there.
Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dogs and mail carriers
Wichita acting postmaster Cindy Liptak gave these tips and reminders:
▪ If a carrier brings a certified letter or a package to your front door, put your dog in a separate room and close the door before opening the front door.
▪ Remind children about the need to keep the family dog secured.
▪ Remember that the city of Wichita’s leash law prohibits pet owners from letting dogs run loose.
▪ If your dog attacks a postal carrier, you could be held liable for all medical expenses and other costs, which can amount to thousands of dollars.
“Your mail delivery may be interrupted or mode of delivery may be changed if your letter carrier is threatened by loose dogs in your neighborhood.”