This postal worker needed 16 stitches after a dog attack. In her state, this is far from unusual

USPS worker Tara Snyder (pictured) didn’t realize she was in danger when she went about her usual 10-mile delivery route in Pennsylvania   (USPS)
USPS worker Tara Snyder (pictured) didn’t realize she was in danger when she went about her usual 10-mile delivery route in Pennsylvania (USPS)

There’s a golden rule that every mail carrier follows: if you don’t feel safe, don’t deliver.

Tara Snyder didn’t realize she was in danger when when she went about her usual 10-mile mail delivery route in Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania on April 15.

Snyder was working overtime on a “heavy” mail day, when she walked up to the porch of a home that required a signature at around 4pm.

As she neared the door, a mixed-breed shepherd suddenly “pushed out the screen door and came right at me,” Snyder said.

This was the only dog attack Snyder had endured in the seven years that she has been delivering the mail — but dog bites in her profession are not uncommon, and they’re increasing. In 2023, there were 5,800 dog attack incidents against USPS employees, up from 5,300 in 2022, according to agency data.

It jumped so aggressively on her that it broke the metal buckle on her satchel. She instinctively used her bag “as a shield”, lodging it in front of her, but her right hand was badly bitten and gushing blood.

The homeowners called an ambulance and Snyder was taken to the hospital, where she was sewn up with 16 stitches — and joined the statistics of injured postal workers.

By a large margin, California topped the list of states with the highest number of dog attacks against mail carriers, with 727 incidents reported in 2023; five cities in the state also ranked within the top 20 cities where dog attacks against USPS occurred.

California was followed by Texas, with 411 incidents, and Ohio, with 359. Snyder’s home state of Pennsylvania is ranked fourth.

The statistics were released as part of the USPS’s National Dog Bite Awareness Campaign, an effort to urge dog owners to secure their dogs before the mail carrier approaches.

Snyder’s canine encounter serves as a cautionary tale for other mail carriers.

The incident put her out of work for a month, Snyder recalled. Due to her hand injury, she couldn’t drive so she worked “light duty” shifts — which still entailed eight-hour-long work days — training new carriers.

She finally returned to full duty on May 24, although she noted: “I’m a little more cautious.”

Physically and emotionally scarred, she told The Independent that “my guard is up with all dogs right now.”

A mixed-breed shepherd attacked Snyder, leaving her needing 16 stitches (pictured) (USPS)
A mixed-breed shepherd attacked Snyder, leaving her needing 16 stitches (pictured) (USPS)

She isn’t the only one. Fellow USPS carriers documented their gruesome experiences online.

One worker lived through an attack on their first day on the job as a mail carrier. “I got dog bit three times by a German Shepherd. It was complete with me losing my pants bleeding profusely, and standing there trying to pull my pants up because I didn’t want to be found dead with my butt hanging out,” the carrier wrote in the USPS Community Facebook group. “I’m ok, just still shocked.”

Another carrier lamented the horrors of delivering mail to the homes of incautious dog owners. “I’m honestly so sick of hearing ‘my dog is friendly’ or ‘he/she won’t bite’. Whether or not your dog is friendly, it’s policy not to get out of the car with an unrestrained dog especially if they are barking and growling.”

The carrier added, “Just because the dog won’t bite you doesn’t mean it won’t bite me. I’m not risking it.”

Snyder also mentioned this USPS policy: “If there’s an animal out, you don’t have to deliver it.”

The USPS website issued a list of “Dog Attack Prevention Tips for Mail Carriers,” suggesting everything from rattling the gate before entering a fenced-in property to bringing dog repellent — which Snyder described as “dog pepper spray.”

On top of these preventive measures, the federal agency also has a warning system in place in order for carriers to report any dog attacks, including close calls, to their supervisors.

Once the carrier gets within a certain distance from the property with a dog, she gets an alert on a handheld scanner notifying there is a “possible aggressive dog in the area,” Snyder explained. She said the system allows her to approach those particular properties with more caution.

Defying these precautions could come at a cost for dog owners too.

USPS noted that if a dog injures a postal worker, “the owner could be responsible for medical bills, lost wages, uniform replacement costs, and pain and suffering for the employee.” An insurance claim for a dog bite averages $58,545, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

For her own peace of mind, Snyder has been creating some safeguards of her own. She said she has been instructing dog owners to put their mailbox outside their fence, if they have one, and to “make sure your dog is secure at all times — even when it’s in the house.”

She added: “And maybe put a second lock on the screen door.”