Michael Rhoades of Hilaleah, Florida, is trying to make sense of what happened to his dog Barney.
According to Local News 10, who reported the story, the man came out of his house on Saturday to find his Malinois in extreme discomfort and a postal worker standing nearby.
“I come out and I say, ‘Hey, did you just mace my dog?’ because he was writhing in pain on the ground,” Rhoades told the news station. “And she’s like, ‘Yes, I did.'”
Rhoades is shocked that a government employee would purposefully hurt Barney, who Rhoades says was behind the fence in his yard during the entire encounter.
“They have every right to protect themselves, but when my dog’s inside its yard, that’s pretty much where her rights stop,” Rhoades said.
The postal worker who sprayed the dog with tear gas maintains that she did so in self defense, when it looked like Barney was about to bite her. Local News 10 confirmed with the United States Postal Service that mail carriers do have repellent on hand, but are only supposed to use it when an animal attacks them.
“Last year, Postal Service employees nationwide sustained over 5,000 painful dog bite injuries,” U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Debra Fetterly told Local 10 News. “The Postal Service’s priority is the safety and well-being of its employees, including our letter carriers who deliver the mail. Local postal officials are investigating this matter and will take appropriate action as warranted.”
In response to the incident, Rhoades has filed a police report and complaint with the USPS. Barney’s owner says he is not looking to get the postal worker involved fired, he just want to raise awareness about the issue and encourage mail carriers to use different methods to handle dogs.
“Safety has to come first, so if the mail is undeliverable because of an obstruction of a dog that may or may not be vicious, take a step back and say, ‘You know what, they can collect it at the post office. I’m sorry,'” Rhoades said. “I would have been absolutely fine with that. She wouldn’t have hurt my dog.”
Thankfully, Barney left the incident without any permanent damage and is said to be doing fine.