Is the USPS still exaggerating in new Seattle dog bite count?


USPS logoThe U.S. Postal Service is out today with its annual list of the cities with the highest number of dog attacks upon letter-carriers. Seattle has improved from a two-way tie for No. 2 last year to a three-way tie for No. 15. An interesting question, though, is whether Seattle dogs are better behaved, or the post office is doing a more accurate job of counting Seattle dog attacks.

As visitors to this space might recall, the PO really screwed it up last year, counting a large number of attacks that took place outside Seattle proper. That had the effect of exaggerating the Seattle count by 17%. The truth emerged only a half-year later when I (1) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get the underlying records and (2) after getting blown off, submitted a formal appeal full of ridicule that was granted.  In addition to the records, I obtained a large number of apologies from various Postal Service officials for the ridiculous delay, which seemed to value canine privacy.

In last year’s press release for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2012, the Postal Service said there were 42 dog attacks in Seattle. I counted just 36; the others were in suburbs. Today’s press release, for the year ending September 30, 2013, listed 28 incidents in Seattle.

By the Postal Service’s math, that’s a 33% drop. By my math, who knows? There’s no new footnote on the press release to suggest the Postal Service is just counting events within a city’s limits. So it’s a fair bet the feds again are exaggerating the numbers to make the problem–a long-time USPS bête noire–seem a lot worse than it is.

No. 1 this year was Houston, with 63 listed attacks, followed by Los Angeles, 61; and Cleveland, 48.  Last year’s top three were Los Angeles, 69, followed by Seattle’s tie with San Antonio.

This year, Seattle was put in a tie with Philadelphia and St. Louis.

The records I obtained last year from the FOIA battle revealed some hard truths about our city. The most dangerous neighborhood for letter-carriers was insular, working-class West Seattle, which with 13% of the population had 25% of the attacks. That was followed by joke-prone Ballard, where one carrier actually was attacked in his truck.

What’s the neighborhood break-out from this year’s list? Don’t know yet. But rest assured, my New To Seattle FOIA request for the basic paperwork already has been filed. Hopefully, this time it won’t take the feds six months to cough up the records.

Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

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