Postal carriers enter hundreds of yards and porches per day to bring people mail and other goods. The classic scene of a standoff between a dog and the mailman seems rather cartoonish, but in reality, workers who deliver goods to homes risk confrontations with dogs every day.

The scenarios in which a mail carrier might get bitten or attacked by a dog may also appear slim, but there are many situations in which it can happen unpredictably. It’s up to dog owners to keep their pets under control to help protect postal service and other delivery service workers from harm – and to avoid the lawsuit that will likely follow.

Your dog can ruin it for your neighbors, too

Aside from the most important factor of keeping mail carriers safe, a dog who bites or poses a threat has the potential to disrupt life significantly.

At the less severe end of the spectrum, the Postal Service can decide to withhold mail if a carrier is bitten or feels threatened by your dog—and not just your mail, but your neighbors’ mail as well.

Mail carriers are required to report any accidents or injuries, including dog bites, to their supervisors, and risk getting fired for failing to do so. That means you’ll almost certainly be held accountable for your dog’s actions and for your own failure to prevent the situation from happening.

Of course, there are nuances regarding whether the mail carrier provoked the dog, but in most circumstances involving a surprise bite, the Postal Service or the individual carrier can file a lawsuit and hold you responsible for damages.

Prevention is key

Prevent your dog from biting making a carrier feel threatened with a few precautions. If your front yard is fenced in, never let your dog roam inside the yard unattended, especially if the mail carrier must walk through your yard to get to your mailbox. If the mailbox is outside of the fence, make sure the dog can’t jump up and bite through or over the fence, and that any gate latches are secure.

Indoors, make sure there is an adequate barrier between the mail carrier and your dog, and that your dog can’t charge or escape the house. If you’re arriving home from a walk with your dog and the mail carrier is there, don’t get close or approach to grab your mail. Step aside, wait for the carrier to leave, then proceed.

By using common sense and not letting your guard down, you can prevent a painful and costly accident from happening.