The U.S. Postal Service is hoping to make things a little safer for those who lug the letters this week during National Dog Bite Prevention Week. The number of carriers bitten by dogs nationwide has increased from about 28-hundred in 1995 to about 32-hundred in 2005.

Deb Ernst delivers mail on a route in Cedar Rapids and was a victim of a dog bite at a home with two dogs. Ernst says she was up on the porch past the fence and the dogs, but she says the smaller of the two dogs climbed the fence and bit her in the knee and climbed back over the fence. Ernst says her attack was an example of how dog owners need to be sure their pets can’t get to mail carriers. She says you may think everything is okay because your dog is behind a fence, but that’s not necessarily so.

Ernst says you can help by paying attention when you dog sounds agitated. Ernst says if you hear your dog creating a commotion, there’s a reason and you should check it out. She says the owners were home when the dog bit her and if the owners had checked out the barking, the incident might not have happened.

Ernst says she’s just trying to do her job, but dogs can be a real workplace hazard. Ernst says she wants to deliver the mail safely, and as a dog lover she doesn’t want to cause any problems for the dogs and their owners. Ernst had to have three stitches in her leg, but says she’d rather have not had to go through it. Ernst says she would liked to have walked away without creating a problem, but says there was “a gapping cut” in her leg that required attention.

Ernst says mail carriers can take evasive action if your dog poses a threat. Ernst says a mail carrier can bypass your house and not deliver your mail if your dog poses a hazard. She says they can also bypass your neighbor’s mailbox if the dog covers a wide area. Ernst says carriers don’t want to avoid delivering the mail. Ernst says dogs naturally try to protect their territory, so you should be sure your dog is secured so it can’t bite the mail carrier.