Last Saturday, Tiara Ziegler was walking up the side steps to the front door of a Germantown house that’s been on her route for the past two or three months. She’d never seen a dog there. Hadn’t even heard a bark.
As she began to put mail through the slot, a pitbull darted through a screen door and started gnawing on her bag. Ziegler said the owner came out and acted like he was scared of the dog. Five minutes later, after the dog bit her on the knee, the ordeal was finally over.
The dog attacking the mail carrier is an archetype, a meme before memes existed. But in real life, especially in Philadelphia, dogs are a genuine problem for the postal service.
The city ranked seventh in the country in dog attacks on mail carriers last year, with 44 (Houston led the way with 77). That number represented a 33 percent increase over 2014.
Here’s how those 2015 dog attacks look on a map:
The zipcodes 19140 and 19139 featured the most attacks, with five each. Hunting Park and North Philly are in 19140, and 19139 is West Philly north of Market Street.
Saturday was the first time Ziegler had been bitten, but she’s dealt with crazy dogs before.
“Early in my postal career,” she said, “I had a dog jump over a porch railing to the pavement. He was on a chain. The chain was long enough for him to jump over.”
A couple months ago, Juanita Davis was delivering mail in Roxborough when a dog climbed over a gate and charged at her. She tried getting away but tripped going up a hill. After getting multiple puncture wounds on her hand, she had to miss several weeks of work.
Philly’s postal service is treating the 33 percent increase in dog attacks as a big deal. It scheduled a press conference to discuss it today, and is introducing new technology so mail carriers can be aware of dangerous dogs.
Previously, mail carriers had neon orange warning cards about dogs on their route that had been tagged as problematic. Now, the warning system is on their electronic scanner. When they get a block away from a known scary dog, it starts beeping.