Local View: Dogs off-leash are a danger; my friend paid the price
From the column: "Many times I have encountered dogs running unleashed in parks in our city of Duluth and owners saying, 'Don’t worry, my dog won’t bite.' Ironically, the USPS reported that its mail carriers who were attacked described being regularly told almost the exact same statements."
As a dog lover, I was very disturbed to receive a text and later a phone call from my sister on Aug. 23. She described that her longtime Peace Corps friend, Pamela Jane Rock, had been killed by a pack of dogs while delivering mail. I was shocked to read about it the next day.
I remember first meeting Pam in the early ’90’s when she was a Peace Corps volunteer along with my sister in a remote village in Guatemala. In December, she decided at the age of 61 to work for the U.S. Postal Service. She was killed only eight months later.
The Postal Service reported last year that, nationally, more than 5,400 of its workers were attacked by dogs in just the past year. In June, the Postal Service ran a weeklong campaign titled: “The USPS Delivers for America — Deliver for Us by Restraining Your Dog.” The campaign included recommendations for responsible dog ownership.
Many times I have encountered dogs running unleashed in parks in our city of Duluth and owners saying, “Don’t worry, my dog won’t bite.” Ironically, the USPS reported that its mail carriers who were attacked described being regularly told almost the exact same statements from dog owners. All canines, even the most friendly, are territorial and protective animals whose bites can permanently scar or kill victims, as happened to my friend Pam.
Evidence suggests that any dog, regardless of breed, can attack unprovoked. Dog owners walking their pets off-leash put all nearby pedestrians and bicyclists at risk for attacks. Almost 50% of dog bites involve children.
The website DogsBite.org provides statistics and prevention tactics. Sadly, it also shares dog-bite victims’ voices with quotes from victims and witnesses who describe heartbreaking accounts of tragic attacks. Incidentally, the average settlement in 2020 for a dog-bite case was more than $50,000, and there are many websites of law firms interested in helping victims.
As a dog lover trying to make sense of Pam’s recent death, I feel moved to kindly ask all dog owners to be mindful, to keep their dogs under control, and to secure them at all times for their safety and for the safety of others.
We also need to be protective of our mail carriers at risk of injury or death from canine attacks. The USPS recommends that “when mail carriers come to the residence, owners should keep their dogs inside the house and away from the door — or behind a fence on a leash — to avoid attacks.” Most importantly, “Dog bites are (in most cases) entirely preventable,” as the USPS stated as part of National Dog Bite Awareness Week in June.
Pam's service of remembrance said that in lieu of flowers, donations could be made in my friend’s memory to St. Francis Pet Care, 104 SE Fourth Place, Gainesville FL 32601.
Mark E. Schneiderhan is a board-certified psychiatric pharmacist and an associate professor in the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy-Duluth.