Crime & Courts

Here’s why everyone in Wichita is getting a postcard about dogs in the mail

How to prevent dog bites

Dogs bite 4.5 million people annually, reports the CDC. Each year, more than 6,000 letter carriers will be victims of dog attacks.
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Dogs bite 4.5 million people annually, reports the CDC. Each year, more than 6,000 letter carriers will be victims of dog attacks.

Wichita used to be in the top 10 in the country for most dog attacks on letter carriers, the postmaster said.

Even though the number has dropped in the past five years, Postmaster Ryon Knopik said, the U.S. Postal Service is spending thousands of dollars to send 191,000 postcards about dogs to every house, apartment, business and post office box in the city.

"Dog bites come with the territory," Knopik said. "As you become a carrier, you know that this is part of your job, that you at some point in your career will have to defend yourself from a dog."

Five years ago, there were 25 to 30 letter carriers who suffered dog-related injuries, Knopik said. That number dropped to 18 in the last fiscal year, from October 1 to September 30. There have been seven since October 2017.

One letter carrier had more than 50 stitches after he was bitten on his arms and legs last year, Knopik said.

Mail carrier Chad Lubrano had to get a rabies shot in each of his 20 wounds after being attacked by a pit bull in March 2015.

Postal Services statistics show letter carriers were attacked by dogs in 25 Kansas cities last year. Wichita had the most attacks at 20, the statistics show, with 10 in Kansas City, Kan., eight in Shawnee Mission, seven in Topeka and three in Lawrence. No other city had more than two attacks.

Knopik said the Postal Service sees an increase in dog bites during the spring and summer.

About 350 city and rural carriers are on Wichita streets any given day, Knopik said. They have air horns, pepper spray and also use their satchels to defend themselves from dogs.

"If you have a dog chasing you, and all you're trying to do is deliver mail, that makes it a little hard for you to do your job," said John Stevens, who chaired the city's committee that studied dogs biting letter carriers and suggested an ordinance revision.

The postcard lists seven tips including spaying or neutering a dog, keeping the dog inside and away from the door and not allowing children to be handed the mail with a pet nearby.

"Don't have your dog out there with your kids if the mailman is around because dogs are territorial," Knopik said. "They're going to protect their property, and if they see a mailman come up and hand mail to a little kid or even a customer, they might think they have to go into defense mode."

The last option in the case of a loose dog is changing the mode of delivery to ensure a safe working environment for the carriers, Knopik said. Such a change can affect neighbors, including a curbside box or community cluster box for an entire block.

There are multiple delivery suspensions in place in Wichita because of dog incidents, Knopik said.

Lt. Brian Sigman with Wichita police's animal control department said the number of reported dog bites is going down.

"We're hoping that people actually take the time to read it and listen to what it says," Sigman said of the postcard.

Knopik said the drop in dog attacks is due to a partnership between the Postal Service and police. A special phone line from the post office to animal services can get a faster response for carriers, he said.

George Theoharis, who helped write the revised ordinance, said he wanted the direct phone line to animal control and higher fines with more education for the public. He said the city loses more than $100,000 from people who do not license their dogs.

The postcards were sent out Monday and Tuesday. They includes updates to the animal control ordinance passed in October. Owners of dangerous dogs are required to put up a warning sign and fines were increased for dogs running at large and allowing a dog to attack or bite.