Sep 02, 2004 Two Carbondale Pit Bulls Seriously Attack Letter Carriers

Carbondale - A letter carrier on a Carbondale route was severely bitten on the hand Wednesday by a pit bull at a residence on the 1300 block of West Schwartz Street, postal officials confirmed.

Doug Meadows, 50, of Anna, who works out of the Carbondale Post Office, was treated at the emergency room of Memorial Hospital of Carbondale. Dan Finnegan, supervisor of customer service at the post office, confirmed that "the carrier was very seriously bitten by a pit bull.

"The carrier was delivering mail on the porch of a residence when the dog burst through an unlatched screen door and attacked him," Finnegan said.

Others in the emergency room said Meadows' wedding ring had to be cut off his hand so he could be treated and that his uniform was covered with blood.

Carbondale police confirmed Wednesday that Cindy Nelson, the city's animal control officer, has received a report on the incident. Nelson was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Meadows was resting at his home on Wednesday night, but still being kept comfortable by the effects of the Morphine he had received at the hospital earlier. He described the dog as seeming "to come out of nowhere."

"I'm a carrier tech," he said. "I do a different route every day, but there was not card in the slot saying that there was a dangerous dog at that house, probably because the owners kept it inside. Unfortunately I was the one doing the route on the day that the dog decided to come outside."

"I went up to the box to deliver the mail and take out the mail that the owner had to be picked up." Meadows continued. "The box was right next to the door. I heard him bark from inside the house, but when he leapt against the door and the door flew open, he was right on me. I shoved the mail at him, just as an instinct, to get him to take it -- anything but me, and I kicked at him. Luckily, the owner was there and called him off. I can even think about what would have happened if he hadn't backed off." 
"I had 14 stitches in my hand," Meadows said. "They had to cut my wedding ring off, and couldn't even do that at first because it was stopping the bleeding. They finally used a blood pressure cuff to stop the blood while they cut the ring off. Even the wedding ring was dented from the dog's teeth. I had four big lacerations and four deep puncture wounds from the dog's teeth. It bled profusely. That's what really had me worried, was all the blood."

The dog's owner drove Meadows to the hospital and reported the incident to animal control.

"I really want people to think about it -- that a dog may be their pet and they say it doesn't bite. Well it doesn't bite you, but just because it has never bitten before doesn't mean it won't. Those are all my friends out there day to day trying to deliver their mail."

Meadows, who is steward for Branch 1197 of the National Association of Letter Carriers, helped coordinate the group's annual food drive in May.

Branch 1197 includes more than 100 post offices from Effingham south to Cairo, and from the Mississippi to the Ohio River. The Carbondale Post Office collected 3,193 pounds of food -- nearly double the previous year's total -- and delivered it to Good Samaritan Food Pantry in Carbondale.

This was the second reported incident in Southern Illinois. Earlier this year, Orient Postmaster Charlene Irwin was bitten July 23 by a large dog that was partially blocking the post office door.

The dog was panting, and Irwin set a bowl of water down, hoping it would drink the water, then go away. Instead, it grabbed her hand and arm and dragged her toward the sidewalk. It also bit her on the leg. Irwin was taken to Franklin County Hospital in Benton, where she received stitches on her left leg and treatment for 13 lacerations on her left forearm and hand. That dog was described as a mixture of German shepherd and pit bull.

Finnegan said the postal service gives plenty of training to city carriers on how to protect themselves from dog bites.

"It's a serious problem nationally," he said, with "staggering numbers" of bites reported each year.

"We want to use this opportunity to encourage people to restrain their animals, both to ensure the safety of our carriers and to reduce liability for the homeowners," he added.

All letter carriers receive training, "one time a year at minimum," in how to defend themselves against dogs, Finnegan said. They carry dog spray, and are trained to use the mail pouch or satchel as a barrier between them and the dog.

Nationwide, the postal service reported 3,423 dog bites in fiscal year 2003. In the Gateway District, which includes Southern Illinois and part of Missouri from St. Louis west to Columbia, the total for fiscal year 2003 was 66 dog bites, a significant reduction from the 89 recorded the previous fiscal year, Finnegan said.

"That makes us think our efforts on education and awareness are working." 

The Southern, September 02, 2004
Animal Attacks in the News