SHELDON—Robert Klingenberg estimates he has been bitten at least a dozen time over his 21-year career as a letter carrier for U.S. Postal Service.
Unfortunately, Klingenberg, whose route encompasses downtown Sheldon, is not an anomaly in his industry. More than 5,700 letter carriers were either bitten or attacked in 2018, according to the Postal Service.
“The post office has taken a very proactive approach on the safety of dog bites,” said postmaster Kathy Sterler. “There is usually not a week that goes by that we don’t have some sort of safety reminders.”
Sterler has worked for the Postal Service for 25 years, the last three as postmaster for the Sheldon, Boyden and Hospers post offices.
She said dogs always have presented problems for carriers but thinks it has become more common in Sheldon in recent years.
“We have several that are repeat offenders and we just want to make everyone aware that this is an issue,” Sterler said.
“We want to keep people and their dogs safe — that’s my thing — and when my carrier has to hit somebody over the head with a two-pound scanner, that’s not good.”
In that instance, Sterler said the owner was right there and did nothing as their dog, which was off its leash, began to go after the carrier.
“It only takes a split second,” she said.
Sterler cited an attack in Spencer and one in Sioux City in which a carrier was ambushed by two dogs — resulting in the death of one of the dogs — as situations she wants to avoid.
She also noted “any dog can bite” and the canines that attack letter carriers vary in breed, shape and size.
“I go out and help my carriers and I’ve had everything from little, small dogs come after me — and we’ve had two big ones in the last several weeks,” she said.
The postmaster noted carriers try to deliver around the same time each day and people should put their dogs up that time to avoid issues as most mailboxes are close to the front door of a residence.
“If you have to put the dog out, please put the dog on a leash and be out with the dog if it’s the time the mail carrier usually comes,” Sterler said.
There can be drastic consequences if a dog attacks a carrier or is deemed vicious.
“We can suspend mail to that person; we can suspend mail to the whole block or two blocks or a three-block radius depending on where the dog lives,” Sterler said.
“Or, we can have everybody change from a door-to-door delivery to a mounted delivery, which means everybody will have to put mailboxes on the curve for us to deliver.”
Additionally, Sterler said a dog that attacks a person is usually euthanized.
“A carrier shouldn’t have to defend themselves and we don’t want to see anyone lose a family member,” she said.