Home > Dog Behavior, Pet News, Pet Ponderings, Pet Safety > Dog Bite she said/she said: How would you have handled this situation?

Dog Bite she said/she said: How would you have handled this situation?


I was kind of going to take a pass on a blog post today, but then, a friend sent me this… Tevlin: Rain or sleet can’t stop your mail, but a tiny dog can  (Star Tribune, dated June 25, 2014, by Jon Tevlin). Seriously. I’m not even kidding.

Here is a quick synopsis of the story:

  • 11 lb dog gets loose from its leash while out on a walk.
  • 11 lb dog runs to mail carrier and jumps up on her and barks.
  • Owner apologizes profusely and gathers dog up (one added detail) and she apologizes profusely.
  • The mail carrier does not react or say anything to the owner.
  • Next day, Minneapolis Animal Control visits owner and reports mail carrier claims she was bitten on inner thigh and has several puncture wounds.
  • Mail carrier claims to have gone to Urgent Care for treatment, but no photos can be provided.
  • Owner agrees to get dog trained and to keep her on a short leash and to keep dog inside when mail is delivered.
  • Next day, mail delivery is stopped for the entire building where the owner and dog reside.
  • Post office manager notifies residents that they can either get a P.O. box or get rid of Nano (the dog).
  • Post office manager refuses to respond to resident’s calls to discuss the issue.
  • Now owner must move out or euthanize her dog. (Her agreement with Animal Control forbids her from giving the dog away.)

Jack Russell Terrier SnarlingI can think of all kinds of cuss words I could use to describe how I am feeling about this story, but really, all I can think of is “Where the hell is the adult in this story?” I mean I read this and all I can see is a lot of miscommunication, lack of communication and just plain old poor communication. I don’t see a whole lot of negotiation or reasonable boundary setting. I don’t even see proof of the actual bite being shared.

So here is what I would love to do today. Instead of posting this story and having a bunch of people angry people post negative and hateful comments on my blog, I would love to have you, the reader, offer ideas of how this could have been handled differently. How would you have handled this if you were one of the adults in this story? 

Feel free to rewrite it in a way that you think it could have gone if people had communicated effectively. How could it have been handled in a way that was better for all involved? What would you have done if you were any one of the parties involved in this situation?

I really look forward to hearing your ideas.

 

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  1. June 25, 2014 at 11:32 PM

    First, as the dog owner, I would apologize profusely and ask the person if he or she were hurt. As a dog owner, it’s important to be a good steward and it also covers you a little if a complaint is later made. It’s not any more acceptable for a small dog to run up and jump on or bite someone than it is for a large dog. That being said, I would have asked for photographic proof immediately when the charges were made. A day later, there still should have been visible evidence of what happened.

    • Mel
      June 25, 2014 at 11:38 PM

      All great examples Carrie of how things could have gone differently. I should have mentioned the owner said she apologized profusely. I’ll add that in since that is a key piece of the story now that you mention it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

    • paigeandspaniels
      June 26, 2014 at 8:34 AM

      Exactly what I would have done. I would have also called ahead to the main post office and tell them exactly what I saw, and that the mail carrier refused help/said they were fine.

      I read about this story a few days ago and I thought it was ridiculous.

  2. June 26, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    I probably would’ve handled the situation just as the dog owner did, at the moment my dog ran up to the mail carrier. Adding to the training agreement; I would offer to have my dog temperament tested by a professional trainer (recommended by animal control) and request my neighbors/friends to write letters stating the disposition of my dog and whether they had seen any undesirable and aggressive behaviors. I would then provide proof of this action to the mail office, animal control, my landlord, and whoever else wants a copy. This gives me PROOF to back up the fact that my dog is NOT dangerous, and makes the Mail Department look fishy for lack of evidence of the attack. If legal action was taken, then I’d already have my bases covered.

  3. June 26, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Where are the adults, indeed!
    I am not sure how we got to a ‘move or euthanize’ ultimatum? Maybe the owner could agree to muzzle her dog (not awesome, but better than the alternatives)? Or walk the dog on a harness that it couldn’t slip from?
    I would certainly be asking for proof of injury and likely get the building management company involved, given the mail stoppage affects everyone.
    And as the owner, I would ask the person right away to check for injuries. Always hard to remember stuff in the heat of the moment, but as someone on the other end once – bitten by a strange dog – it’s a good move. Then everyone knows what’s what.

    Now, this might be a silly question, but who goes into the mail carrier business with that kind of attitude about dogs?

  4. June 26, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    There are 3 sides to every story – his, hers and the truth. The missing information is the official side both from animal control and the post office. The p.o. must need to see some sort of documentation prior to cancelling mail service and animal control would have made a determination based on their investigation. If it is all done on hearsay then the dog owner should be getting a lawyer to fight this.

  5. Maggie
    June 26, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    I think a meeting between the postal carrier, his/her supervision, the ACO, and the owner… figure out what really happened and come up with a reasonable solution that doesn’t go to such extreme lengths.

  6. jan
    June 26, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    I have nothing to add to the excellent points that have been made. But I definitely think that some kind of verification of the dog bite is essential for any further action to take place. I sympathize with the problems of mail carriers, but dogs deserve evidence of wrong doing just as people do.

  7. June 27, 2014 at 12:39 AM

    WOW. Don’t they have to produce some actual evidence of the said puncture wounds? Shouldn’t there be some due process with this?

  8. June 27, 2014 at 7:33 PM

    I would have handled everything the same way. I can understand why the employee would not want her boss to take photos. Why didn’t the urgent care facility take photos? And what about the medical record from the visit.Has the carrier ever had any other job related issues? Including previous positions. Lots of unanswered questions. Unfortunately it seems like lawyer time.

  9. June 27, 2014 at 11:35 PM

    HI all – I am the actual dog owner and was interested to see if anybody had some suggestions that I hadn’t tried or thought of – because I’m looking for ideas. First, let me clarify one thing – the clip on Nano’s leash came off his collar ring – I have no earthly idea how this happened but it did and while it’s not my fault it IS my responsibility. I examined the clip once I got home and the Animal Control-approved behaviorist I hired also examined it – as well as spending 4+ hours assessing Nano, trying to rile him up, trying to get him to bite or be aggressive – all attempts failed. One person here said they would have called ahead to the PO after the incident – trust me, if I thought at the time there *had* been a bite or scratch, I would have done just that. Knowing me, I would have offered to drive her to urgent care on the spot. I just didn’t see anything except my dog run over to a mail carrier, stand on his hind legs and make a “digging” motion with his front paws while barking a couple times (not aggressive barking, it was friendly barking like “hey! i know you mail carriers and you like to play with me or pet me or pick me up or even sometimes give me treats … although that was quite awhile ago). I have asked twice for the medical records and photos to be sent to Animal Control and/or my attorney – the USPS has declined to do so. It blows my mind that even Animal Control doesn’t have photos and didn’t visually confirm the bite. It sounded to me like the USPS wouldn’t release that info unless a federal lawsuit was filed. (Does anyone have a million dollars to lend me for that?) Also, I’ve made several offers, in writing, for common sense, reasonable precautions that I could take to keep Nano away from mail carriers. I hand-delivered a letter on June 19 and never heard back from anyone at the USPS. Actually, I called the USPS at least once a day since June 11 and it was just today, June 27, that I got my first call back from the USPS. Interestingly, other tenants in the building received calls back, but me, the dog owner who is trying to do all the right things and work it out and accept responsibility for the leash malfunction … I don’t get a single call back for 16 days. There are a zillion details over on my blog if you’re really interested – justicefornano.blogspot.com – if you have any suggestions for solutions, I’m honestly open to it. At this point, we got the USPS to take a half-step back and agree to wait until Animal Control has made their final decision – once the training is done – but all the USPS has agreed to is to “discuss mail service”. My thought, “well, okay, that’s what we’ve been talking about all along – are you going to actually work WITH me on a reasonable solution, like the things I suggested: 1) keep Nano in my top floor apt from 8-10am since mail is delivered around 9am. 2) before going down the front stairs with Nano at ANY time of day, look down to the foyer – I can see down there from outside my apt door – and if the mail carrier is there, either wait for him/her to leave and be down the sidewalk a ways or go out the back exit of the building. 3) anytime I see a mail carrier anywhere in the neighborhood, create distance by walking the other way or crossing the street. I hope I’ve behaved as an adult in this situation – in answer to “where are the adults”, but I’m just one side of the equation and I can’t make up for what the other side isn’t doing. Thanks for reading!

  10. June 28, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    Good luck. You will get to keep your beloved Nano. Sometimes these things happen for a reason. And it is at a much later date we realize the true purpose behind what happened. The more media attention and awareness Nano brings to the public the better. As you stated we always think of so called “aggressive type” breeds when there is an incident.

    I am still curious about the postal employees past jobs/performance/problems. Is this person being totally honest. Or is there more to the carrier than the postal service is revealing. The truth will eventually be found out. ask if you can have your attorney run a background check on the carrier.

    I have three very friendly dogs (all sizes) and would hate to see anything like this happen to them. When they are walked (busy traffic area) I use a soft fronted halter for extra safety (theirs).

  11. June 28, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    The reporters involved have been digging into her history. I don’t feel it’s right for me to share those personal details online, but yes, there are some red flags. I know for a fact that the carrier isn’t being totally honest – her statement to Animal Control was almost laughable if this weren’t such a serious situation. She claimed she did all sorts of things she didn’t do, like kicking Nano, etc. The USPS told KARE 11 that the carrier had NINE puncture wounds on her upper, inner thigh. That is a big bite by a big mouth. It would have to be in order to latch on to the upper thigh. I’ve been bitten by a couple of dogs – once on the forearm and once on the back of my calf – and while they were serious bites, I only had 4 puncture wounds in both. But, when they happened, I screamed in pain and sprang away from the dog. That just seems like what your body does – it retreats from pain. The mail carrier didn’t say a word or move at all during the encounter with Nano. And if he had somehow magically leapt up, forced her legs apart, unhinged his jaws and bitten her inner thigh … if she had 9 puncture wounds, she would have been incapacitated and I would have called for an ambulance. I mean, this whole thing is fraught with inconsistencies like this.

    Thanks for the harness suggestion. I actually got Nano a harness awhile back and we used it a couple of times, but despite adjusting it/tightening it he was able to wiggle out twice. I think I need to find a leash that has a locking mechanism on the clip so I never, EVER, have a situation where the clip comes off the collar ring.

    I agree that everything happens for a reason. I’m sure it’ll eventually be clear why this had to happen. It’s not clear to me yet, but it can take awhile.

    And finally, thank you for your support. So many people have reached out and been supportive (and a few have reached out to be mean, but you’ll get that in this day and age). I feel very lucky and grateful for all the calls people made and words of support I’ve gotten.

  12. Let's stop and think here
    June 29, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    I am a letter carrier, Not THE letter carrier in question, but a letter carrier who loves dogs, for the past week, minneapolis pet owners have been yanking their dogs away from me with fear. Customers I have seen every day for twelve years are asking questions about how much I can ‘make’ if a dog bites me. In answer to that, in 15 years, and having seen literally hundreds of my fellow carriers bitten, I have never seen a carrier ‘make’ any sort of profit by being bitten and filing suit. We do not want to be bitten. If we are too bite prone, we can lose our jobs, if we are bitten, and injured badly, we can sometimes become unable to do our jobs, if we are bitten lightly and it becomes infected, we can actually die. Dog bites are not our goal. Have some common sense here.

    Can we analyze this story, with some honesty. Granted a very media savvy dog owner, who obviously adores her dog has done a tremendous job getting her side of the story out there… and we are all pretty much taking it at face value… but there ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY. but I have to question a few things…

    How was the dog off leash? According to the dog owner, there was a leash malfunction, that neither she, animal control or a k9 behavioralist, can replicate, or understand….This is a red flag to me. In a big way.

    In my experience, leashes malfunction in very obvious ways. Dogs are either off leash, because they are let off leash, or the leash is escaped from, if the cause of the escape is a too large collar, it is explanatory in ways other than aggression, but if it is not, it is a warning signal to people who work with dogs.

    A word of advice, it is always. ALWAYS better, to accept an off leash ticket, in a situation like this, than to say that your dog escaped his restraints. It becomes a much different sort of a story if a perfectly nice dog owner, made a mistake, and allowed their pooch to be loose, momentarily, and get into a situation where he panicked, than it is to explain to animal control that your dog escaped his restraints and then bit someone, reel type leashes are not the best leashes, but this explanation does not concur with the problems we know come from them. This particular leash story, to me seems very implausible…

    More plausible is a very nice dog owner, upon noticing a familiar uniform, bent down and unhooked her dog from the leash, so her dog could go see his friend the letter carrier and get the treat the letter carrier usually carries … without noticing said letter carrier was actually a different letter carrier than usual. The substitute letter carrier is new at the job, and has heard the stories we all tell, about small dogs actually being the worst biters (because they are, both the tiny sharp teeth, and the owners who can’t believe their dogs bite, and can do damage, because they are so tiny, are a real problem for letter carriers)

    Anyway, upon sensing the letter carriers panic, the small dog panics too, and bites. Bites happen fast. I have been bitten three times in fifteen years. On one occasion, a young dog bit me in the underarm and chest region, easily five times higher than he stood, it broke the skin, through my shirt, bra and windbreaker, and I did not realize until I took my intact uniform off at the end of the day. Not a single puncture in the tear resistant, and highly uncomfortable postal gear, only in my flesh. That dog has had training, and is a very good dog to this day, ten years later. The dog owner was proactive, and accepting of his responsibility, animal control on that occasion, like this one, did not ask me to strip on the street so he could photograph the injuries.

    I had my husband photograph them at home later in the evening, so that I had something in case the wounds became infected. They did not, and the wounds were located in a place where they were not going to rub and make it impossible to work while they healed, so nothing ever became of the mildly pornographic shots.

    The dog owner did not doubt my story, the broken porch door the dog pushed open to bite me, was quite clearly an escape hazard that did not point to aggression. There was literally nothing keeping it closed. The dog owner, before he even realized the extent of the damage (before I realized it too) found me on my Rte to inform me that the dog was already registered with a trainer, and the door was being fixed. Both animal control, and myself were confident that delivery could be maintained. But not if the dogs were out… After a few weeks, I worked with the dogs’ trainer and owners until I was confident enough to deliver while the dogs were out, and to this day, there is a warning card, so that an unfamiliar carrier will skip that days mail if they are out.

    There was no attempt on the dog owners part to deny, or blame shift. There was no evasion of responsibility (he was on the leash, i swear, until he just wasn’t!) There is no way he bites! The carrier is making it up to get money) No expensive attorneys were hired, no reporters dug into my background, and insinuated I was just in it for the money… It turned out well for everyone. Especially me, who was not permanently damaged.

    In this case, a letter carrier, who was just doing her job, was bitten. The owner of the dog refuses to believe the dog bit, and is very angry about it. Angry enough to repeatedly offend the postal employees, both at the station and at the one bitten, to hire an expensive attorney, launch a blog, a crowd funding site, initiate station call in campaigns, be interviewed by every media outlet that will listen, in order to insinuate that the letter carrier is somehow litigious, dishonest and greedy. And insist that her dog just had a miraculous escape that no one can replicate, from a perfectly functioning leash, and did not bite.

    The letter carrier is not allowed at this point, to tell her side of the story, I do not know her, as we carry at different stations… but I recognize the behaviors of all sides of this matter, and I am just hazarding guesses as to what happened. The one sided nature of this story is irking me. Mostly, because the other two times I have been bitten, we’re by toy sized dogs, and the owners refused to believe it happened, even as the dogs were biting me.

    I am assuming the letter carrier involved is new enough at the job that she does not have the savings required to hire an attorney herself, but rest assured, even if she did, there would be no financial gain for her. None. Dog bite suits are not high paying windfalls. They barely cover attorneys fees. And without clear financial damage, mere punctures are not even enough to get an attorney to take them.

    I think that a lot of spurious conclusions are being drawn in the telling of this story, and the recalcitrant attitude shown by both the post office, and animal control, has as much to do with the owner of the dog, as it does Nano.

    Please, understand that letter carriers get bitten. We ALL do. We do not want, or deserve that. Never approach a letter carrier you do not know without permission, if you are with your dog, your letter carrier should do the same. Get permission first. Fow myself, i am totally cool with your dog jumping all over me, and playing, other carriers are not. I will let you know if you ask. In fact, I actually like to interact with dogs as much as possible, to help alleviate their natural suspicion of letter carriers. If your dog scares the letter carrier, and acts aggressively, progressive steps will need to be taken to ensure the carriers safety. If your dog actually BITES a mail carrier, all bets are off, the smartest thing you can do is cooperate. Take some responsibility. Small dogs can bite, and they can do damage. The letter carrier, does not have to show you photos, or prove they have been bitten, there are urgent care records, and likely photos as well, but they are not your property, only if they are planning to file suit, will they need to provide those. If the bite is in a personal place, the carrier will be reluctant to release the photos. Despite the conjecture that is put forth in all the telling of this story, your dog’s teeth do not hold positive potential for a letter carrier.

    The escalating nature of poor Nano’s punishment was poorly handled, and had to do with the parties involved, as much as it did Nano. I am sorry for him, and even feel a little sympathy for the owner, but I am going to have to side with the carrier on this one.

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