Alaska Life

Anchorage postal carriers need you to keep your dogs secured

Carl Corpuz was on his Anchorage mail route last summer when he approached a door with a package. The door opened, with a young girl inside. Before he could react, a German shepherd lunged out.

“It didn’t even bark first,” he said.

The dog attacked Corpuz, biting him on the wrist and scratching his chest. He had no time to shield himself with his government-issued mail carrier satchel or reach for the pepper spray on his belt.

Corpuz, 25, was able to get the dog off him, but he was left bleeding and shaken.

Animus between dogs and mailmen may be cartoonish cliché, but it’s also a serious problem, according to the U.S. Postal Service. Last year, about 5,800 postal carriers nationally were attacked by dogs, representing “the most prominent threat to carriers,” according to the postal service.

Dog attacks on mail carriers can be serious: A Florida woman on her rural mail route died after being mauled by five stray dogs in 2022.

This year, the postal service has launched a dog bite prevention campaign in an attempt to get the mail-receiving public to take precautions with their pets. It comes complete with a tagline — “don’t bite the hand that serves you.”


It also released a national ranking of cities where the most mailmen have been bitten by dogs. On top: Los Angeles, with 65 dog bites recorded in 2023.

Anchorage isn’t anywhere near that number. Each year, six or so postal carriers are on the receiving end of dog attacks here, said safety manager Peter Neagle, a 40-year veteran of the service.

Ice, snow and other inclement weather are bigger issues for mail delivery safety in Alaska, he said. But dog attacks are an ever-present threat.

On a recent morning, Corpuz and Neagle stood in the parking lot of the Spenard post office on Northern Lights Boulevard. Corpuz practiced deploying the can of bright orange pepper spray at an imaginary attacking dog. The wind pushed a little back in his eyes.

Mail carriers are also taught to wield their bulky satchels as a first-line defense against aggressive dogs, thrusting them out as a dog is bearing down in hopes the animal will grab the bag and not the person.

Corpuz, originally from the Philippines, said he decided to work for the postal service because many of his friends and family also do. He likes the job — it has given him a view of Anchorage so intimate he knows exactly where a street is without looking on a map, he said.

“I just like giving people smiles, because they are expecting mail every day,” he said.

Dog attacks on mail carriers don’t happen the way many people imagine, Neagle said. Carriers are allowed to defer delivery if they encounter what the postal service calls a “dog menace” in a yard.

The more common scenario is that a person opens the door to sign for a package and the dog inside hurtles out. While most mail carriers ride in vehicles rather than walking their entire route, they frequently get out of their trucks to walk up to doors to leave packages or have customers sign for letters.

The postal service recommends keeping dogs inside the house, behind a fence, away from the door, in another room or on a leash when a letter carrier approaches — anything but able to roam. Dogs, the postal service contends, don’t know what you ordered online and “may interpret the actions of letter carriers as a threat.” Children shouldn’t be allowed to accept mail directly from a carrier in front of a dog, “as the dog may view the carrier as a threat.”

Letter carriers aren’t supposed to give dog treats, or even pet them, Neagle said. That’s because dogs might become familiar with one carrier, and then suspicious when another one shows up. One of this year’s dog bites came from a dog on a regular route that was usually docile but one day bit the mailman.

Corpuz says he has nothing against dogs himself — he has a golden retriever. He’s not even mad at the German shepherd that bit him last summer as he delivered mail.

“I know the dog was protecting that little girl,” he said.

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Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.