A couple weeks ago, I wrote here that the U.S. Postal Service once again was exaggerating the annual number of dog attacks upon letter-carriers in Seattle. “On the basis of present documentation” I said–namely, reports provided to me under a Freedom of Information Act request–the USPS Seattle dog attack count was including incidents happening outside city limits or even across Puget Sound on Bainbridge Island such that it swelled the true number of Seattle attacks by 10%. That put the city in a tie for 15th place nationally in a dog-house list of cities with the most attacks. (Raising public awareness about dog attacks on lettter-carriers has been a Post Office cause for decades.)
But there was a numerical discrepancy. The national press release the Post Office issued in May shaming Seattle said the city was the location of 28 attacks (mainly bites) for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013. But in response to my subsequent FOIA request for all the records documenting that figure, the feds coughed up only 22 reports, including the two outside the city. Uh, so what was the basis for the 28 number? From the New To Seattle world headquarters I filed yet another written request with the Post Office, which in the past has had problems supplying me with the proper paperwork concerning canine capers in Seattle. I asked for either the missing reports or an explanation.
In response, I recently received another batch of reports. The USPS cover letter said that in its original document dump to me, records for a part of the fiscal year inadvertently had not been pulled. But what I got was not another six reports, but another 11. That brought the total number of dog incidents the USPS deemed responsive to my query to 33–five more than the 28 in the press release.
But guess what? Five of the 33 incidents (including three of the second batch of 11) took place at locations outside Seattle city limits. So that means the number of dog attacks within the city was 28–exactly the number in that big press release.
Now I have no idea whatsoever whether the USPS in Seattle was somehow meticulous in its mapping or just plain lucky (it certainly was neither last year, when the level of puffery was 17%). But–again on the basis of present documentation–it now appears the agency this time did not hype the number of dog attacks within dog-loving Seattle. So the record now stands corrected.
Now that I have what seems to be the full set of reports, I soon will publish my detailed analysis identifying the Seattle neighborhood whose dogs were most dangerous to letter-carriers. Last year it was working-class West Seattle, but there’s a surprising new No. 1 this time.
And that’s no exaggeration.
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