(WHDH) — The United States Postal Service is calling attention to a serious issue faced by postal workers — dog attacks.

More than 5,800 postal employees were attacked by dogs in the United States in 2020, ranging from nips and bites to vicious attacks, according to the USPS.

The USPS is bringing this statistic to light as part of their National Dog Bite Awareness Week public service campaign, which kicked off on Saturday.

“Raising awareness about dog bite prevention and how to protect our letter carriers as we deliver the mail is paramount,” said USPS Acting Employee Safety and Health Awareness Manager Jamie Seavello. “Dogs are instinctive animals that may act to protect their turf and that why’s it’s important to inform the public about this campaign.”

Letter carrier James Michael Benson, who delivers mail in Kansas City, Kansas, was recently attacked by a dog.

“I knocked on a customer’s door to pick up a package and as a young child answered, a dog came bursting out of the door and bit my forearm, knocking me to the ground “ he recalled. “I was in shock and struggling with the dog, when he lunged and bit me again on my face, under my ear.”

Benson said this was one of the most terrifying moments of his life and that the attack happened in seconds before the owner was able to restrain the dog.

The USPS is promoting responsible pet ownership.

They suggest that when a letter carriers comes to a home, that dogs are kept inside the house or behind a fence, away from the door or in another room, or on a leash.

They also say pet owners should remind their children not to take mail directly from a letter carrier as the dog may view the carrier as a threat.

In addition, letter carriers are taught not to startle a dog, keep their eyes on the dog, never assume a dog won’t bite, never attempt to pet or feed a dog, among other techniques.

If a dog attacks, carriers are trained to stand their ground and protect their body by placing something between them and the dog, USPS said.

They may also use dog repellent if necessary.

When a carrier feels unsafe, mail service could be interrupted for the entire neighborhood, USPS added. When mail service is interrupted, mail must be picked up at the Post Office and service will not be restored until the dog is properly restrained.

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