When Patrick Montgomery started out as a Canada Post letter carrier five years ago, he thought the idea of mailman versus dog was just a cliché.
He’s since found out that dogs are a very real hazard on the job.
Montgomery is a Vernon-based letter carrier, and with Canada Post seeing an uptick in dog-related incidents in the Vernon area, he’s hoping to spread awareness about how dog owners can reduce interactions between their pups and deliverers.
Derek Charlton, Canada Post superintendent for the Vernon area, says the uptick in dog-related incidents took place around spring break, and Canada Post typically sees higher numbers of dog incidents throughout the summer.
Chartlon says the problem of dogs interfering with the jobs of letter carriers is prevalent across the country.
“Canada wide it’s quite bad,” he told The Morning Star. “We had quite a few incidents just a couple years back. Bites, jumping up on (letter carriers) and pushing them down, which can then further lead to other injuries.”
Montgomery, who is on Canada Post’s health and safety committee, says he’s been bitten by a dog once on the job when he was working in Kamloops.
“The dog kind of just jumped out of nowhere. I’d never actually seen the dog before because it was usually kept in the back yard, but it just zipped around and just nipped me,” he said. “It happened very quickly and it was intense.”
Montgomery had to get a tetanus shot but the bite was otherwise OK.
Even more traumatic is when Montgomery said he’s had dogs “charge” at him.
“I remember a larger dog, I guess it wasn’t expecting me and I hadn’t seen it, it was just in a car port, and as I was walking up then I noticed it and the dog kind of noticed me at the same time, and so it kind of spooked him I think,” he said. “And it just came running after me, and so that was a lot more traumatizing than the time I was actually bit.”
Montgomery has taken steps to protect himself from dogs, who are often protective of their owner’s property. For example, if a customer’s property has an enclosed yard, he’ll rattle the gate to alert the dog of his presence.
But he says if dog owners want to receive their mail, they need to avoid having their dogs loose on the property, as a Canada Post rule of thumb is ‘if in doubt, stay out.’
“A lot of times I’ll come up to a house and there will be the dog sitting on the stoop in front of the house without a leash or any sort of something tying it, and I can’t go to the house,” he said. “If I don’t see that the dog’s tied up at all there’s no way I’m going to risk going and approaching it.”
Montgomery is a relief letter carrier, meaning he covers routes for other Canada Post employees when they are sick or on holiday. He says this makes him more vulnerable to adverse interactions with dogs because his routes are different all the time, and dogs don’t have a chance to get to know him.
If a person is walking their dog while he’s on his route, he says it’s best if they have the dog on a leash, or at least hold onto the dog’s collar while he’s passing. On people’s properties, he advises dog owners not to have their dogs loose in their yards. And when a dog is in a house and the owner needs to give a signature for a package, he says it’s best to keep the dog in a separate room while the letter carrier is at the door.
“There’s many houses I’ll come to and every time I go there the dog’s just pounding at the window barking,” he said. “A lot of times people will kind of open (the door) up a crack and use their foot to block the dog from coming out and then try to sign our scanner to get the signature for the package, and it’s just an accident waiting to happen.”
Charlton says this past spring there have been more incidents of dog attacks where “we were very fortunate that the delivery agents handled it absolutely as they should, they ended up having to release their dog spray to fend off the animal.”
Charlton says carrying dog spray isn’t a requirement for letter carriers, but it is encouraged.
“We’re just trying to build awareness because every time (a dog attack) happens it has the potential of being a lot worse,” Charlton said. “We just want to make sure that everybody is on the same page and everybody’s being diligent about it.”