Danville post office worker mauled by pit bulls

Danville post office worker mauled by pit bulls

DANVILLE – Delivering mail Tuesday afternoon in the 100 block of South Griffin Street was a typical day on the job for local letter carrier Wendy Hoskins.

But three staples in her head, three stitches in her hand and several cuts and bruises later marked this day as the worst dog attack Hoskins has ever had in the 20 years she's worked for the United States Postal Service.

The attack and another similar incident in Holiday Hills earlier this year has prompted a local union representative to push harder for stricter responses to animal issues on carrier routes.

Jean Faw, local union representative of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 825, said that letter carriers can choose not to deliver mail in an area where there is a loose dog.

As of now, there is a process in place to help carriers deal with customers' dogs, she said.

First, a letter is sent requesting the dog be chained up. If a dog is loose again, then the customer has to sign a form that states he or she will keep the dog confined. By the third time, the post office can stop mail delivery to the house until the problem is solved, Faw said.

Faw would like to have mail delivery stopped on the first incident, she said.

"Carriers are scared," she said. "It's really hard to do this."

Carriers typically report dangerous dogs on their routes to supervisors or substitutes. In Hoskins' case, the route had been without a regular carrier for nearly two years and Hoskins was helping out the new carrier, Faw said. There were no reported problems on the South Griffin Street route prior to the attack, she said.

Hoskins typically serves North Griffin Street, and she was unfamiliar with the South Griffin Street route.

"They made a beeline, came across the whole street, charging me," Hoskins said of the two pit bull dogs that attacked at around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. "I was kicking and hitting and kicking and hitting. What made me survive is I fought back."

Mark New was talking on a cell phone on his front porch when heard Hoskins' screams from across the street. He ran over and saw Hoskins down on the yard.

"They were mauling the heck out of her," New said.

One dog ran away as New approached, but he had to pull the second dog off her, he said.

As he helped her up, the first dog came back and New said he positioned himself between Hoskins and the growling dog. Hoskins used pepper spray on the animal.

She said she attempted to spray the dogs before, but every time she reached for it, they bit at her hand.

"It was a three-minute ordeal, but it seemed like 20," Hoskins said.

The dogs' caretaker "just watched," she said.

New said the caretaker put one of the dogs in the house before retrieving the second. He said the dogs had lived in the neighborhood for a few years and been loose before, but said they had not attacked anybody before.

"It's the first time I've seen someone mauled," New said.

The Danville Police were called to the area and waited as Vermilion County's animal control picked up the dogs from the caretaker, who voluntarily turned them over.

JoAnn Adams, director of the Danville Humane Society, reported that her office picked up 1,200 dogs last year and nearly 500 of them were pit bulls. This year, the city saw its animal cases increase.

In 2005, the city had 400 animal cases, compared with more than 580 cases this year, Adams said. Animal violations include cruelty cases and animals running loose and without a license, with fines ranging between $100 and $1,000, plus court costs.

The Vermilion County Department of Animal Regulation handles dog-attack cases for the county, quarantining the animal for 10 days before releasing it back to its owner. Director Shane Boyer estimates that of the 50 to 100 bite cases the county has a year, 30 percent to 40 percent involve pit bulls.

Other animal violations in Danville are handled by the Humane Society.

Once picked up by the Humane Society, a dog has to be licensed and have a microchip implanted before its returned to its owner. If nobody claims the animal, it's euthanized.

"We do not adopt out pit bulls," Adams said.

The county animal control requires an animal to be vaccinated before its owner can pick it up. The owner must also comply with other special instructions and controls, such as requiring the dog to be caged.

Though both the county and city have a process to classify a dog as dangerous or vicious, not every bite case results in the dog's death.

If an owner voluntarily turns the animal over to the county, it will be euthanized, Boyer said.

Charges may be filed against the owner in Hoskins' case, which is still under investigation.

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