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HARVARD — Postmaster James C. Mills has called for the cooperation of dog owners in keeping their pets restrained during mail delivery times.

”More than four million people were bitten by dogs last year, half of them children, and 3,475 of them letter carriers,” he said.

He made his plea for responsible pet ownership as part of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, May 21-28, but noted it is a year-round concern.

”You can help protect your letter carrier, meter reader or newspaper delivery person by making sure your pet is properly restrained or confined,” Mills said. “Don’t think a fence is the only answer, especially if a letter carrier or delivery person has to enter your yard. Please make sure your pet is properly restrained so we can safely deliver your mail,” he said.

He said the Postal Service is not anti-dog but is pro-responsibility. “If your dog attacks a letter carrier, you can be held liable for all medical expenses and other costs. You can avoid this liability by properly restraining your pet. Help our letter carriers deliver safely for you,” he said.

”From nips to bites to actual dog attacks, violent dog behavior continues to pose a serious threat to our letter carriers,” said Massachusetts Postal District Manager John W. “Mike” Powers III.

”Dog bites are a serious problem. They cause pain and suffering to our letter carriers and can disrupt mail delivery. Our letter carriers take pride in delivering your mail promptly and efficiently and that means being able to approach your mailbox without interference from your pet,” Powers said.

In the Massachusetts Postal District, he said there have been more than 35 dog bites since the current fiscal year began last October 1, and 118 letter carriers have been bitten in the last calendar year.

”Responsible pet ownership includes making sure pets are properly restrained,” Powers said, offering the following additional suggestions for responsible pet ownership.

When your letter carrier comes to your home keep your dog inside, away from the door, in another room, or on a leash. Don’t allow your dog to bark, jump up against the door, or bite the mail as it comes through the mail slot; this will only teach your dog to attack the letter carrier.

If your dog has to be outdoors during mail delivery time, make sure it is restrained and that the length of the restraint does not allow it to reach the path the mail carrier must take in order to deliver your mail.

Do not tie your dog near the mail receptacle.

Do not let your child take mail from the letter carrier in the presence of the dog. Your dog’s instinct is to protect the family and this action could trigger a defensive response.

Obedience training can teach your dog proper behavior and help you control your dog in any situation.

Spay or neuter your dog; dogs that have not been neutered are more likely to bite.

Make sure your dog has had its shots and is licensed.

”Pet owners complying with these suggestions will greatly reduce the threat of our letter carriers being bitten,” Powers said.