Some residents of northeast Roanoke are experiencing what you might call a mail-delivery conundrum. The holiday season is a rotten time for that.
They live on Northridge Street, near Monterey Elementary. Roanoke’s postmaster has declared a two-block stretch of that road off-limits for deliveries — because of repeated run-ins between a mail carrier and some unleashed dogs.
Residents say the incidents date to August. The dogs in question are four pets that belong to two households on the street. According to city police, two of the dogs are pit bulls.
Resident Jane McDaniel said she’s called animal control repeatedly. Although Roanoke has a leash law, and officers have called upon the homes where the dogs reside, neither owner has stopped their dogs from getting loose, McDaniel said. And neither owner has been cited.
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“I’ve called the dogcatcher 10 times this year,” McDaniel said. (Some other neighbors didn’t want to be quoted by name because they said they’re concerned about the potential for retribution.)
Pet dogs running loose are a violation of Roanoke’s leash law. It requires a pet to be under its owner’s control at all times. A violation may result in a citation.
But police say they can’t take action in this specific case until one of the dogs bites someone or unless officers personally observe the pets running loose off their owners’ property. So far, neither of those conditions has been met, said Roanoke Police Lt. Susanna Camp.
Meanwhile, Roanoke’s Animal Protection and Services Unit has stopped responding to stray animal reports because it’s severely short staffed.
Currently the unit has three filled warden positions and four unfilled vacancies, Camp said. The unit’s online homepage says the short-staffing “impacts our ability to provide the best service possible to the animals of this city.”
So currently, residents of the 4400 and 4500 blocks of Northridge are picking up their mail at the main post office on Rutherford Avenue.
“Absolutely, that’s an inconvenience,” said Pamela Shaver, who also lives on Northridge. “I’m having to leave work early so I can get to the post office before it closes at 6.”
The first mail-service interruption this year happened in August, McDaniel said. She and her neighbors lost mail delivery for about a month. Initially, McDaniel was unaware why.
McDaniel finally learned the reason from Shaver. Last summer, Shaver received a notification to pick up a package at the Postal Service’s Courtland Road annex. That’s when she learned regular mail service had been temporarily stopped because of dogs that had frightened the carrier.
Shaver confirmed that account; McDaniel said deliveries resumed after about a month. During the interim, she picked up her mail about once a week at Courtland.
McDaniel said the postal carrier also visited her house in August personally, and told her he’d been seriously attacked three years ago.
“He said something had to be done because he was not going to risk his well-being because of dogs running loose,” she told me.
That’s totally understandable. Dog bites are serious matters, and pit bulls can be especially frightening.
Deliveries stopped again after the Dec. 3 incident. McDaniel said she had a conversation with the letter carrier then, too. It happened immediately after he pepper-sprayed the dogs in question.
He said, “it’ll be months before you get your mail delivered,” McDaniel told me. “He said, something’s got to be done.”
Though initially reported as an “attack,” Camp said the letter carrier was not bitten Dec. 3. Rather, he deployed pepper spray after the dogs began chasing him, Camp said. Then he reported the incident to both the Postal Service and police.
It was one of seven animal-related calls since Aug, 1 from the two blocks in question, said Roanoke police spokeswoman Caitlyn Cline.
After the Dec. 3 incident, McDaniel and other residents received a nine-paragraph letter, dated Dec. 8 and sent by certified mail, from Roanoke Postmaster Angela Jones. Most of it is form-letter boilerplate.
One of thing things it notes is that, on average across the country, roughly 15 Postal Service letter carriers are bitten by dogs every day.
A 61-year old postal carrier died after being attacked by five dogs in rural northern Florida over the weekend, sheriff’s officials said.
Near the end is a bolded paragraph that specifically addresses the situation on Northridge Street.
“A mail carrier was attack [sic] in your neighborhood on December 3, 2022,” the paragraph reads. McDaniel was among the homeowners who received it.
“This is the third instance of a serious attack on the mail carrier and can no longer be tolerated,” Jones wrote in the letter. “The United States Postal Service is gathering information from animal control and [sic] police department to determine a remedy to this problem for the safety of the mail carrier.”
The letter went on to say, “Mail delivery in your neighborhood is temporarily interrupted until a safe remedy can be found to resume delivery … You will receive a letter of the next course of action within 30 days of receipt of this letter.”
Campo said the police department received a flurry of calls after residents received the letter.
Back in August, not getting mail daily was “was not that big of a deal,” McDaniel told me. “This time of year, we have Christmas. We’ve ordered things online we’re not getting.”
Monday, I emailed a Postal Service spokesman about the problem, after I’d called four numbers for Roanoke’s postmaster, all of which went unanswered.
Spokesman Philip Bogenberger said mail delivery would resume on Northridge when it’s clear the carrier could deliver the mail there safely.
Jones’ letter, meanwhile, broached two potential solutions, neither of which McDaniel finds palatable.
One is that residents of Northridge could individually install mailboxes on posts at the street in front their homes, so the mail could be delivered from the safety of a vehicle. The other option is to install a single large bank of mailboxes like some apartment complexes have, with locked slots accessible by key.
Both solutions would cost residents money and are unacceptable, McDaniel said.
Camp offered another solution that sounds like a better short-term option. She said residents of the street could visit a magistrate and themselves charge the dog owners with violating the leash law, if they have personally witnessed infractions.
Perhaps a fine would get the owners’ attention.
“We really need the neighbors to partner with us, and press the charges,” Camp told me.
Maybe that will happen soon. The uproar on Northridge Street is growing.
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Contact metro columnist Dan Casey at 981-3423 or [email protected].
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