See a Sticker on Your Mailbox? Don't Touch It, USPS Says
If you notice a yellow or orange paw print sticker, you shouldn't remove it.
Your mailbox serves a very simple purpose: receiving mail and leaving outgoing mail for a carrier to pick up. Still, some of us enjoy sprucing up our mailboxes, adding personal flair, color, or even decals to help an otherwise standard mailbox stand out. But if you notice a paw print sticker on your mailbox that you didn't add, don't start peeling it off just yet—it's likely part of a program run by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to help keep carriers safe. Read on to find out what these stickers mean, and why you shouldn't remove them.
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Over 5,000 mail carriers were attacked by dogs last year.
In 2022, over 5,300 Postal Service workers were attacked by dogs while delivering mail, according to a June 1 press release from the USPS. Larger cities led the pack in terms of the number of attacks—with Houston, Los Angeles, and Dallas claiming the top three spots.
"When letter carriers deliver mail in our communities, dogs that are not secured or leashed can become a nemesis and unpredictable and attack," Leeann Theriault, USPS employee safety and health awareness manager, said in the release. "Help us deliver your mail safely by keeping your dog secure and out of the way before your carrier arrives."
Even if you think that your dog is docile and friendly, the agency writes that "all dogs can bite, even those perceived as nonaggressive." In fact, many of the attacks that letter carriers reported were by dogs whose owners told them, "My dog won't bite."
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The USPS offers tips to keep carriers safe.
To combat dog bites, the Postal Service included a note on how pet owners can "support safe mail delivery." Tips included keeping dogs inside the house or behind a fence, away from the door or in another room, or on a leash.
Mail carriers also follow protocol to keep them aware of areas where dogs might be present, and they're equipped with scanners to remind them of possible dog hazards, as well as dog warning cards that are added during mail sorting. But in 2020, the USPS added another preventive measure: the PAWS Program. First introduced in Pennsylvania, the program uses stickers to assist mail carriers—which you might notice on your mailbox.
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Stickers are becoming more common across the U.S.
The PAWS Program uses color-coded stickers affixed to mailboxes to inform mail carriers about dogs in the area. An orange sticker with a black paw print tells carriers that there is a dog at this home, while a yellow sticker with a black paw print tells them there is a dog at the next house.
While this was first implemented in Pennsylvania, the PAWS Program has since been expanding to states like Minnesota, South Dakota, and Tennessee. Recently, additional communities saw the introduction of the paw stickers, including those in Lakewood, Ohio, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. According to Fox-affiliate WGHP, 117,000 households in 20 North Carolina cities are currently participating in the PAWS Program.
Citizens are informed ahead of time that the stickers may appear on their mailboxes. In a notice sent to Lakewood, Ohio, residents, the Postal Service wrote, "Carriers will soon be placing a paw sticker on mailboxes to indicate that a dog or dogs live in the area—yellow indicates dog nearby/orange indicates dog at residence. The sticker will act as a reminder to the carrier that they should proceed with caution, especially when delivering packages to the door."
Don't remove these stickers if you see them.
Removing these stickers may do more harm than good, as your mail service can be halted if your carrier feels unsafe. Not only does this affect the home of the dog owner, it applies to the entire neighborhood, the USPS said in the June 1 release. Service isn't restored in these instances "until the aggressive dog is properly restrained."
At the end of the day, these stickers are put in place to "reduce the risk of dog bites and attacks that occur while delivering mail," which is just another reason you should leave the sticker on your mailbox.
"We all love our dogs," Kimberly Tilley, acting postmaster for Winston-Salem, told WGHP. "We love our animals, but we … have to take responsibility to protect the carrier and the people around us as well from our animals."
Tilley added that dog bites are more common than you think, and they can be traumatic for carriers. "Once a carrier has been bit, it sets some fear in them long term for the rest of their life," she told the outlet.
However, although these stickers are strongly recommended, if you object to having a sticker placed on your mailbox, you can opt out, Kyle Stevens, Southwest Carrier Annex station manager in South Dakota, told KELO in 2021. To do so, the first step would be to contact your local post office.
- Source: https://about.usps.com/newsroom/national-releases/2023/0601-usps-releases-dog-bite-national-rankings.htm
- Source: https://about.usps.com/newsroom/local-releases/pa/2020/0612-dog-bite-awareness.htm
- Source: https://about.usps.com/newsroom/local-releases/mn/2021/0915-usps-launches-new-dog-paw-program.htm