Dog Bite | Animal Behavior Expert Witness For Attorneys

Richard H. Polsky, Ph.D. CDBC
Los Angeles, California

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

[do_widget id=sow-editor-3]

Dog Bite Statistics for Letter Carriers

Dog bite risk to letter carriers is well recognized by the United States Postal Service.  Given this, the USPS have made efforts to lessen the problem through education and information dissemination, particularly in conjunction with the American Veterinary Medical Association. For example, annually in the United Stated a week in the Spring is set aside as “National Dog Bite Awareness Week”.

Dog bite statistics USPS
Postal carriers and delivery people face the occupation hazard of dog bite injury as a result of the behavior of a territorial aggressive dog.

How Effective is National Dog Bite Awareness Week in preventing dog bites?

The effectiveness this particular week has on lessening the dog bite problem in the USA is questionable, however.

For example, the number of postal carriers bitten by dogs and 2019 did not decrease dramatically from instances of dog bite injury in 2018 (See data below). In 2019 USPS reported 5803 dog bite attacks, which was only 200 fewer than in 2018 and only 400 fewer when compared with 2017 totals.

Despite the misgivings of the USPS and Donald Trump’s failure to attend to the financial problems of the USPS, the USPS nonetheless has adopted strategies to reduce dog attacks. Mail carriers carry handheld scanners, which indicate the presence of a potentially dangerous dog at an individual address. Also, service alerts upon request are sent to a homeowner’s smartphone providing notice of an upcoming delivery.

Dogs will be dogs

Postal carriers are often perceived by dogs as a territorial threat, and therefore are at risk for  dog bite injury. Hence, dogs will be dogs, and therefore attacks will happen. Some postal carriers will sustain severe dog bite injury. I know of law firms that specialize in handling these clients.

In one such case, I was retained as an dog expert witness. The incident happened as a result of the postal carrier falling backward off a sidewalk curb. He attempted to avoid a charging German Shepherd mix dog. The dog escaped from the confines of its house. The postal carrier was not bitten because of his quick thinking in using his satchel to protect himself from the teeth of the dog. Nevertheless, his fall resulted in severe injury to his back. Given that the case did not fall under California’s strict liability dog bite law, the plaintiff to win his lawsuit had to prove that the landlord knew about the dog’s dangerous propensities. The case went to trial in Los Angeles. The jury returned a verdict of $992,000 for the plaintiff.

Owners have the responsibility to ensure that postal carriers are not at risk of being bitten. Owners with aggressive territorial dogs, regardless of size, should ensure that their dog does not pose any threat to mail carriers.  There is good reason why dog owners should take this responsibility seriously – namely, financial liability.  For example, owners who act carelessly, and know of the dog’s dangerous propensities, could face punitive damages if they are sued.

Below I summarize USPS dog bite statistics that I have studied. It is not clear if all the instances include those in which the carrier sustained an injury in some fashion other than a bite, as in the example above.

The top 10 Dog Bite Cities for 2019

  1. Houston = 85 (number of reported instances)
  2. Los Angeles = 74
  3. Chicago = 54
  4. Cleveland = 51
  5. Dallas = 40
  6. Columbus = 35
  7. Philadelphia = 34
  8. Toledo =32
  9. Denver = 30
  10. San Diego = 29

USPS Dog Bite Statistics by State for 2019

  1. California = 777  (number of reported instances)
  2. Texas = 491
  3. Ohio = 378
  4. Illinois = 323
  5. New York = 339
  6. Michigan = 224
  7. Pennsylvania = 237
  8. Florida = 229
  9. New Jersey = 169
  10. North Carolina = 162

USPS Dog Bite Statistics by City in the USA for 2012

The top 20 Americans cities with respect to the total number of reported attacks on letter carriers in 2012 were as follows:

  1. Los Angeles- 69 attacks
  2. San Antonio- 42 attacks
  3. Seattle- 42 attacks
  4. Chicago- 41 attacks
  5. San Francisco- 38 attacks
  6. Philadelphia- 34 attacks
  7. Detroit- 33 attacks
  8. St. Louis- 32 attacks
  9. Baltimore- 29 attacks
  10. Sacramento- 29 attacks
  11. Houston- 27 attacks
  12. Minneapolis- 27 attacks
  13. Cleveland- 26 attacks
  14. Dayton- 26 attacks
  15. Buffalo- 24 attacks
  16. Brooklyn- 24 attacks
  17. Denver- 23 attacks
  18. Dallas- 21 attacks
  19. Tacoma- 21 attacks
  20. Wichita- 20 attacks

USPS Dog Bite Statistics for the entire USA 1996 – 2005

  • 1996 =  2,795   (total number of reported attacks in the USA)
  • 1997 =  2,798
  • 1998  = 2,541
  • 1999 =  2,729
  • 2000 =  2,721
  • 2001 =  3,158
  • 2002 =  3,070
  • 2003 =  3,743
  • 2004 =  3,429
  • 2005  = 3,249