USPS: Drones Aren't the Answer to Dog Bites

Dogs may attack drones and people may steal them, an official says.

A U.S. Postal Service letter carrier encounters a barking a dog on Feb. 7, 2013, in Atlanta. Twelve postal workers were attacked in the city by dogs in 2013.

A U.S. Postal Service letter carrier encounters a barking a dog on Feb. 7, 2013, in Atlanta. Dogs attacked 12 postal workers in the city last year.

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The U.S. Postal Service says 5,581 letter carriers were attacked by dogs last year, but limited drone deliveries aren’t being considered as a way to take a bite out of mailman maulings.

Postal Service Manager of Safety and Health Linda DeCarlo says using remote-controlled aircraft to deliver to addresses where vicious dogs are known to lurk would create new problems.

“If you look at the scenarios,” DeCarlo tells U.S. News, “you’re going to have the same issues with a drone [and you would be] introducing a whole new set of issues.”

Dogs may bite drones, DeCarlo says, and people may steal them.

“The humming might make dogs more skittish,” she adds.

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Moments earlier, DeCarlo stood at a National Press Club podium in Washington, D.C., to discuss dog attacks alongside two Maryland deliverymen who were savaged last year. In one case, the animal went for the eyes; in the other, it went for an arm.

DeCarlo said residents risk having their mail service suspended if an unrestrained dog frightens postal workers.

“You may impact delivery to the rest of your neighborhood” if the animal runs free, she warned.

Despite the Postal Service's reluctance to embrace drones – which are increasingly affordable and versatile – UPS and FedEx are considering the use of unmanned aircraft, The Verge reported in December.

Internet giant Amazon.com is at the forefront of drone-delivery plans. The company is developing Amazon Prime Air, a drone-delivery system it hopes to implement sometime in the next several years.

"We can do half-hour delivery, and we can carry, we think, objects up to 5 pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items we can deliver," Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told CBS in December.

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The Federal Aviation Administration is preparing regulations that will pave the way for commercial drone use within U.S. airspace.

Jim Williams, head of the FAA’s unmanned aircraft division, said Tuesday the agency may begin allowing low-risk commercial drone use before comprehensive rules are proposed and ultimately enacted – a process that may take years.

USPS statistics show that Houston is the current leader in dog-on-letter carrier attacks with 63 in 2013, followed by Los Angeles with 61, Cleveland with 58 and San Diego with 53.

The dog attack statistics were released before a kickoff event for National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which begins May 18. The event emphasized proper training by dog owners and appropriate caution by people who approach the animals.

Read the USPS list of top dog-attack cities: