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      Dog attacks on letter carriers unusually high this year

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- What is it about mail carriers that gets dogs so riled up? The number of postal workers bitten by dogs so far this year in the state is inching very close to the total number of attacks last year.

      The 35 counties in the Greater South Carolina District have seen 22 dog attacks on mail carriers so far this year -- compared with 28 total incidents last year.

      Mail carriers are the third largest group of people attacked by dogs, behind small children and the elderly, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

      The problem is that dogs like to protect their territory, and their territory includes the mailbox.

      "The screen door was unlocked, and then that's when the German Shepherd ran out the house towards me and tried to bite me," said Gabriel Hamm, recalling a dog attack earlier this year when he was delivering mail. "I'm yelling at the dog, and the dog's barking. The owner finally came out the house and saw us, and that's when he called the dog back into the house."

      Hamm was fortunate enough to get away with only a scratch, but other letter carriers have had it worse.

      "We have had some really extreme situations," said Harry Spratlin with U.S.P.S. "We had one carrier that was attacked by a large breed dog and was out for six months and had reconstructive surgery."

      Local leash laws are in place to prevent such attacks. They prohibit dogs from being outdoors without a leash.

      "If a dog is loose in the neighborhood -- reported as loose -- or if a carrier sees loose dogs, then he's right to curtail delivery in that neighborhood -- not just for the home that owns the dog, but the neighboring homes as well," said Spratlin.

      If you do keep your dog out on a leash, just make sure that leash doesn't reach the mailbox. This will help keep mail carriers like Hamm safe as they do their job.