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A neighbor's dog suspends mail service to 38 homes while residents express frustration
Santa Maria

A neighbor's dog suspends mail service to 38 homes while residents express frustration

From the 2019's Best: Collection of the top stories of the year on SantaMariaTimes.com series

One dog’s animosity toward a mail carrier has led to the suspension of mail delivery for dozens of homes in a northwest Santa Maria neighborhood.

The suspension began June 6 after the dog charged at a United States Postal Service carrier who was delivering mail to a neighboring home, according to Postal Service spokeswoman Meiko Patton.

The carrier placed his satchel in front of his body to protect himself and blew his air horn, scaring the dog off, Patton said.

Mail delivery had previously been suspended to the home where the dog lives after it charged at the same carrier in late 2018 in an incident that involved the carrier spraying the dog’s eyes with mace.

The front yard of the dog's home is not fenced off, and the dog was out loose during both incidents. Mailboxes in the neighborhood are mounted against the walls of the houses.

The affected area includes 38 homes on a block just north of Donovan Road, between Thornburg and Depot streets.

While the carrier wasn’t bitten in either incident, the issue was a big enough safety concern that USPS has notified residents it will not deliver mail to their block until the dog is removed.

The problematic pooch is reportedly a gray-colored pit bull that lives in the 400 block of Agnes Avenue.

Santa Maria resident Vincent Aguillon said he only learned about the suspension after he went to the post office to investigate since USPS notified neighbors of its decision with a letter that was sent through the mail.

“We noticed we weren’t getting the mail,” he said. “We kept thinking, ‘Bills are coming up — where are they?’

“Finally around the second week it had stopped, I went down there and they just handed me my mail,” Aguillon said. “The [USPS notice] was in the stack.”

The notice stated, “While our overall goal is to provide the best possible service, we also must protect our employees. Therefore, in keeping with our District Policy on dog interference, this letter is to serve as official notification that the mail delivery for this entire block has been suspended.”

Another neighbor, who asked not to be identified, expressed frustration with the inconvenience and noted some of the street’s residents receive prescription medications through the mail.

While the notice sent by USPS informed neighbors that they would need to either purchase a post office box or provide an alternative address where mail could be forwarded if the issue was not resolved within 30 days, Patton said the affected neighbors could continue to pick up mail at the post office beyond that date.

According to USPS, California leads the nation in dog attacks on mail carriers. In 2018, there were 794 dog attacks on carriers in the state, five of which were in Santa Maria. 

Tara Diller, director of Santa Barbara County Animal Services, said the agency was working with the postmaster to resolve the issue.

Animal control officers have visited the pit bull on a few occasions, but each time the pup was calm and contained in its backyard.

“That’s not to say the dog is good or bad, but that’s our observations,” Diller said.

Since the dog has never bitten the carrier, did not appear aggressive and was properly licensed, Animal Services was limited in what it could do, Diller said.

“Animals are considered property, so we can’t go onto someone’s property and take an animal that is not out of compliance,” she said.

Diller said Animal Services is continuing to work USPS and is hopeful some resolution, like a community mailbox, could be worked out.

In the meantime, Aguillon and his neighbors continue to pick up mail at the post office every couple of days.

“We are caught in the middle of all this,” he said. “Because of all this, we’re the ones that are paying the price.”

Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed

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City Government

Razi Syed covers city government for the Santa Maria Times. He is a graduate of Fresno State University and New York University.

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