By Brody Sinutko, Special to the Van Nuys News Press 

ENCINO, CA – The United States Postal Service (USPS) hosted a press briefing at Libbit Park as the Encino Post Office sponsors Dog Bite Awareness Week from June 2-9, with the theme “Don’t let your dog bite the hand that serves you.” This community outreach follows over 34 dog attacks on Encino mail carriers within the last five years, while nationally, 5,800 postal workers were victims of dog attacks in 2023.

Van Nuys has experienced five dog attacks on mail carriers this year alone, averaging one per month. David Ochoa, Manager of Customer Service at the USPS Van Nuys Branch, described a common dog bite scenario in Van Nuys, noting,  “Many (people) walk their dogs on leashes while being occupied with their phones. When the mail carrier walks by, these (dog owners) don’t tighten the leash. As a result, the dog goes after the carrier, and the owner loses control of the leash, leading to the dog biting the carrier,” Ochoa explained.

District Safety Manager, Yolanda Ramirez, noted an increase in dog attacks compared to previous years, “We’ve had more dog bites this year than last year, and we’re not understanding the increase. I think people may have just let their guard down. Some of our carriers, as well, have let down their guard, and that’s why they’re getting bitten,” Ramirez said. She also shared her theory that the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to this spike, “People were inside more and decided to adopt a bunch of dogs. So I think COVID is the reason for the increase. I just think people also left their guard down, for example, leaving their doors wide open,” Ramirez said.

Sebastian Torres Jr., a current, 36-year-long USPS carrier, described precautionary measures he instructs newer carriers to use to prevent dog attacks, “I always tell them to shake the gate. Make sure that you’re aware, shake it momentarily. If nothing comes out, go to the front door,” Torres said. While demonstrating delivering mail for KCAL News B-roll, Torres mentioned other precautions, “If you see any signs of a dog being there, such as a chew toy, a frisbee, or a ball, you know that there are dogs in that residence and you have to be aware,” Torres said, noting that he had only been bitten once in his 36-year career.

To reduce dog attacks and ensure the safety of its employees, the USPS allows carriers to withhold package deliveries if dog threats aren’t addressed. If issues continue, the post office may require renting a P.O. box.

Ochoa explained the precautions his Van Nuys USPS office takes to keep their staff safe. “We’re teaching our carriers to be proactive, take a defensive stance, and be prepared because a dog might come after you, whether it’s leashed or not. That’s our experience right now at the Van Nuys office.” 

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