Dog Bites Man in Some Cities More Than Others

Is your city one of the dog bite–iest—at least when it comes to postal workers—in the nation?

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A letter carrier in Chicago, where dogs didn't bite as many postal workers last year as in 2012. (John Gress/Reuters)

In the war between dogs and postal workers, you gotta hear both sides.

From a pooch’s perspective, mail carriers represent an everyday invader. Six days a week, this uninvited guest shows up at the door, but he or she is never invited inside. Just before the dog successfully wards the mail carrier away (yet again!) by making a ton of noise, the invader leaves some incredibly smelly things that have touched dozens of strange hands. Most of it bills and coupons.

Postal carriers, of course, are just doing their jobs, and dogs, bless their hearts, can make it frustrating and even dangerous for them to go about their days. But it turns out, dog bites represent a greater danger in some cities than in others.

The U.S. Postal Service has released its annual list of the cities where dogs inflict the most bites on mail carriers. The good news? Of approximately 2,500 municipalities where USPS tracks dog attacks against its workers, well more than half registered no more than one dog bite. The overwhelming majority of precincts saw only a handful of dog bites for both 2013 and 2012. But nearly 80 cities reported more than 10 dog bites in both years. This adds up to thousands of attacks against mail carriers: 5,581 all told in 2013 (down from 5,810 in 2012). 

 
Top 15 U.S. Cities Where Dogs Bite Mail Carriers
Cities Number of Bites, 2013 Cities Number of Bites, 2012
Houston 63 Los Angeles 73
Los Angeles 61 Houston 55
Cleveland 58 Cleveland 50
San Diego 53 Philadelphia 44
Chicago 47 Chicago 43
Baltimore 46 Seattle 42
Dallas 45 San Antonio 35
Denver 41 Columbus 34
Columbus 39 San Diego 33
Kansas City 33 St. Louis 33
Minneapolis 32 Sacramento 32
Phoenix 32 Baltimore 31
Portland 31 Brooklyn 31
Sacramento 30 San Francisco 31
Indianapolis 29 Detroit 28

States where cities boast the highest number of canine-on-postal-worker attacks lead the nation in overall dog bites, according to claims data put together by State Farm—namely Texas, California, Ohio, and Illinois. 

 

State Farm Dog Bite Claims, by State, 2013 

Keep in mind, these figures also represent where State Farm does the most work. While there appear to be nearly seven times more dog bites in California than in all of New England combined, in fact, State Farm does not write any new business in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, according to a representative. You might expect to see more claims settled in Massachusetts, actually. According to Kenneth M. Phillips ("the nation's best-known practitioner of terrier torts" —Los Angeles Times), Massachusetts is a strict-liability state with "one of the best laws for the protection of dog bite victims, especially young children."

Dog bites are a costly problem: State Farm paid out $104 million in claims over 3,700 dog bites in 2013. That's only a fraction of the total number of dog bites every year—a staggering 4.5 million, which adds up to a real drag on productivity (which is to say nothing of the tragedy for victims).  

The USPS reminds owners to remove dogs from the room when the mail is delivered. And children should never physically take mail from a mail carrier when their dog is present, as dogs sometimes see this gesture as a threat. No one's job needs to involve being bitten by a dog. Several cities clearly have work to do.

About the Author

  • Kriston Capps is a staff writer at CityLab. He was previously a senior editor at Architect magazine, and a contributing writer to Washington City Paper and The Washington Post.