The U.S. Postal Service is up to its old dog tricks, at least in Seattle.
As part of a long-running P.R. campaign against dog bites, the post office earlier this month released its annual national list of the cities with the highest number of dog attacks on letter carriers last year. According to the USPS, Seattle tied with Detroit for No. 13, listing 28 dog attacks. Seeking public awareness, it is in the USPS’s interest to make the situation seem as bad as possible.
And as part of my long-running New To Seattle campaign against false statements, I filed my annual Freedom of Information Act request with the stamp honchos in the Other Washington for copies of the incident reports. Unlike previous years, where there were long delays and even a refusal in providing the requested documents until I filed an administrative appeal brimming with ridicule and won an apology, this year the bureaucrats coughed up the paperwork in barely a week.
Guess what? The USPS again exaggerated the number of letter carrier dog attacks in dog-happy Seattle by including incidents occurring outside the city. The level of exaggeration this time was 4% (two years ago, it was 17%, but last year it was none). On top of that, none of the incidents appeared to be serious and several didn’t even involve bites.
Nothing in the material the USPS puts online suggests the city-by-city count includes areas outside identified cities. Had the count accurately reflected municipal boundaries, Seattle would have recorded 27 incidents and by the USPS’s reckoning would have ranked No. 14 instead of No. 13. But aside from geographical confusion, I consider the way the USPS tallies this data to be dubious, for a reason I will explain below.
Using Google maps, I plotted the location of the 28 incidents on a street map. The address of one was in Normandy Park, a city to the south along Puget Sound that doesn’t even touch Seattle. So that pulled down the actual Seattle count to 27.
Another one also might have been outside Seattle city limits to the south, but the address on the incident report seemed to be nonexistent–rather amusing coming from the post office–so Seattle gets the benefit of the doubt. A third erroneously listed as the attack location a post office branch where the letter carrier was based, rendering accurate mapping impossible but making it unlikely the venue was outside Seattle.
Of that 27, at least two did not involve a real bite. In a incident in the Georgetown neighborhood, a carrier avoided a Doberman that was “barking viciously” by turning and running away. Another incident included among the 27 in West Seattle also didn’t involve a bite, but details were not provided.
I wrote recently about the questionable way that the USPS assigns numerical rankings to cities it hopes to shame. My analysis bears repeating.
In most ranking schemes, when there’s a tie, the next rank is skipped. For instance, if there is a two-way tie for No. 6, the next entry is No. 8, not No. 7. But the USPS, in an effort to make things seem as utterly bad a possible, doesn’t skip ranks. Thus, this time, after Denver and Louisville were declared in a tie for No. 6 with 40 attacks each, St. Louis, the next worse city with 38 attacks, was listed as No. 7.
The result of all this rank inflation was that what the USPS in an official press release called its “top 30 dog attack city rankings” actually contained 80 cities (or more accurately, places, since several of the entries, like Jamaica, N.Y., and Flushing, N.Y., aren’t even cities at all but simply parts of Queens, one of the five counties in New York City). Still, from the USPS standpoint it would be a P.R. coup to generate local coverage ranking, say, Spokane in a tie for the scary, attention-grabbing rank of No. 30 when by my reckoning it really was in a 14-way tie for No. 67, which somehow doesn’t seem nearly so bad and is even a yawner.
Counting the way normal people would count, Seattle would have been in a four-way tie for No. 17 (with Long Beach, Calif., Indianapolis and Baltimore), which is lower than No. 13.
Still, the fact that the Seattle PO hypes the number of dog attacks in the city doesn’t mean there were no dog attacks here. So which neighborhood was the most dangerous for carriers? For last year’s data set it was tony Queen Anne. This year there’s a different topper. Within a few days I’ll post my analysis along with another searchable map.
Meanwhile, remember this: You can’t teach an old post office new dog tricks.
So here’s my story! We had our kitchen remodeled last year, a 7-month horror story. While it was going on, my 3 dogs could not get to the back yard to relieve themselves, so we had to take them out into the front yard several times a day. Our front yard is fenced in with a 3′ picket fence, but we still kept our smallest dog on leash because she can jump over the fence and through the pickets. One day, the dogs were not even in the yard, but our front door was open with the screen door shut. The mailman came by (and this is all recorded on my security cameras), and walked back and forth several times in front of the house, scouting out to see if it was safe to enter (he knows we have dogs). He decided to come in anyway and once he was inside the yard, one of the dogs pushed open the screen door and went out and barked at him (he’s a 10-year old beagle from a testing lab in Spain…not at all vicious, but he is loud). The mailman started brandishing his mail bag at the dog so the dog thought he wanted to play and continued to bark. I came out quickly and got the dog and put him in the house. In the meantime, the mailman left without delivering my mail, so I went across the street to where he was delivering my neighbor’s mail to get my mail and he refused to give it to me. He said that once a dog attacks, he doesn’t have to give me the mail.
That started months and months of trying to deal with the post office over this as they stopped delivering our mail. We were forced to drive 6 miles round trip to a local post office to pick up our mail every day. They finally agreed to bring it to our house, but we had to install a mailbox on our picket fence, which is about 3 feet from the street. So anyone walking by can see and have access to the box and any packages they leave. When it rains, the postman just leaves packages out there in the rain.
Again, this was a temporary situation, the kitchen is done and our dogs are back to being in the backyard behind a 6′ fence and a gate with double locks. But they still refuse to deliver our mail to the mailbox by our front door.
I even wrote to my senator who sent a letter to USPS. Some lady from USPS called one day and said she had received the letter but that they wouldn’t change their stance since the dog attacked. I told her I have video proving that the dog never touched the mailman. She said it doesn’t matter.
This mailman is known for being afraid of dogs. We have an elderly couple who live across the street and not only has he complained about their dog (who is as gentle as can be) but he also made them remove a camellia bush in their front yard or he wouldn’t deliver the mail (their mailbox was behind the bush, but easily accessed).
I confronted the mailman just recently and asked why he told his supervisors that my dog attacked him and he said he didn’t say that. But I have the piece of mail from that day that clearly shows that he wrote on it “dog attacked.” So he’s a liar as well.