It is no secret that the Pearl District beams dog fever; it is not uncommon to see packs of dogs and their owners enjoying brunch at a local café any day of the week, or to see dog owners pacing up and down the aisles of health food grocery stores with their unlicensed “therapy dogs.”  While Portlanders enjoy their pooches, the city has a serious dog bite problem. Portland ranks twelfth in the country for the number of dog attacks on letter carriers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is also ranked fourth in the country for pet ownership.

Dogtopia

Many hail Portland as an ideal model for the modern lifestyle. The city draws tens of thousands of new residents a year; from July 2014 through July 2015, the city grew by 111 people each day. Oregon was ranked as the most popular state to move to three years in a row from 2013 to 2015, and many are moving to Portland from other states. It is the top destination for young, college educated people — the very people who like to own dogs before starting a family. Portland is so dog-friendly, many businesses leave water bowls outside so they can cool down. There are bakeries that make treats exclusively for animal consumption, and tons of dog parks everywhere. It’s no wonder that people with pets are drawn to Portland.

The city has invested millions in infrastructure to facilitate an active urban life, and a big part of that is accommodating its thousands of residents who are pet owners. There are 5.7 dog parks per 100,000 residents, which is more per capita than any other city, according to USA Today. While Portland welcomes dogs of all sizes, not everyone in Portland is thrilled about the seemingly lax culture surrounding pet ownership.

With over 600 complaints about animals in food stores received by the food safety division of the Oregon Agriculture Department, some may take pet ownership too far. Dogs have been observed shopping alongside their owners in popular grocery chains despite store efforts to disallow animals that are not trained to help the disabled. Dogs present a health and safety threat when they urinate or defecate in stores, yet many able-bodied owners insist on taking them everywhere.

The presence of dogs is so prevalent that unfortunate incidents involving dogs are bound to happen.

Dangerous Dog on the Prowl

In May 2017, Portland police shot and injured a dog that was menacing a section of Southeast Portland. The dog had allegedly bitten a man, chased a woman, and was about to attack a group of children waiting at a bus stop when officers arrived at the scene. Officers responded to a call of a white pit bull that witnesses had observed attacked two people, including biting a woman who was protecting her son and other children at the bus stop. Police approached the animal at the bus stop, which redirected its attention. The dog charged at an officer before it was shot. Those who were injured were treated at the scene. Multnomah County Animal Services took custody of the dog. Investigators have asked anyone with information about the dog or its owners to contact the Portland Police Bureau non-emergency line: 503-823-3333.

Letter Carriers at Risk of Dog Bites

Portland mail carriers have a tougher-than-average mail carrying job. Harsh weather conditions and loose dogs turn a simple mail delivery job into a dangerous activity. According to a KGW report, the city of Portland makes the list of top dog attack cities in the U.S. almost every year. There were 41 attacks on mail carriers in 2016 and 6755 nationwide. Los Angeles, California takes the lead with 80 dog attacks in 2016; followed by Houston, Texas with 62; and Cleveland, Ohio with 60. In 2015, Portland ranked 9th with 41 dog attacks.

Billy Brink, a local mail carrier, has delivered mail to Portland residents for 37 years. He has been bitten several times by local dogs. According to Brink, most of these dog bites have come from small dogs rather than large dogs. His most recent attack happened within the last year and, according to brink, the dog “just came out of nowhere.” During his years of experience, he has carried dog mace and an air horn to scare attacking dogs away.

Brink and others pin the responsibility on dog owners, claiming that it’s not about dangerous dogs, just irresponsible owners who let dogs roam free. Many dogs are territorial, which drives them to attack an “invader” such as a mailman to protect their families. Dogs should be kept behind a fence or inside, and should be under the control of their owners at all times. They should not be able to leave the house at will.

Portland mail carriers who feel threatened in a particular neighborhood can request dog owners and other residents of that neighborhood to pick up their mail at a nearby post office or to get post office boxes.

Learn more about issues impacting safety, well-being, and justice in the Porltand area at rizklaw.com. To schedule a confidential appointment to discuss a claim with an attorney, call (503) 245-5677 or email info@rizklaw.com.