'Vicious' dog stops the mail in Bristol
Residents of Baker Street stopped getting their mail last week, after a homeowner's pit bull gave the mail carrier a fright. The post office has since resumed delivery to the 20-plus homes on that street, but only after involving a police escort, installing new mailboxes and triggering a vicious dog hearing.
"The postal service is in the business of delivering mail safely," said Judy Glover, postmaster of the Bristol Post Office. "Our best asset is our mail carriers. We need to make sure it's safe to deliver the mail, for everyone."
The dog, a 70-pound, 3-year-old pit bull named Buster, allegedly attacked a mail carrier while he was delivering mail to 10 Baker St., a two-family home. According to owner Josh Brightman, Buster is "just really big, stupid and hyper."
"My 3-year-old daughter had opened the front door trying to look for me, and when she did, Buster just ran past her," said Mr. Brightman. "He loves people and was just running up to him."
What happened next turns into a he-said, she-said: Either the mail carrier used pepper spray on the dog, or he didn't. Regardless, mail delivery stopped the following day.
"We were never notified it stopped," said Ed Larue. "It just never came. I had to go down to the post office, and that's when I learned that it stopped because of a dog."
Mr. Larue had no idea Mr. Brightman had a dog.
"I'd never noticed it before," he said. "I've never heard any barking or seen a dog loose."
Vasco Castro lives next door to Mr. Brightman, and like Mr. Larue, had never had a problem with Buster.
"I can go up to him and pet him. He's pretty friendly," Mr. Castro said. "He's typically on a leash on the front porch, but I've been seeing him out less and less."
The post office takes animal complaints seriously, Ms. Glover said. Stopping mail delivery is the last resort. First, Ms. Glover said, she looks into whether there has been a complaint about the dog before, and any known history on it. Then neighbors are interviewed.
When the situation is deemed severe enough, mail delivery will stop.
However, this is not the first time Buster "attacked" a mail carrier. A similar incident occurred almost a year ago, when Mr. Brightman lived on Noyes Avenue. At that time, Buster was taken into custody by the animal control officer and kept at the animal shelter for almost a month. Mr. Brightman was summoned to appear at the police department for a vicious dog hearing.
Following the hearing, Buster was deemed a "vicious dog," and Mr. Brightman was ordered to pay a fine, have Buster insured up to $500,000, and to micro-chip and license the dog. There is also a sign on Mr. Brightman's front door, warning of a "vicious dog."
Whenever Mr. Brightman takes Buster off his property, the dog must be on a leash and wear a muzzle.
"It's ridiculous," he said. "He's never bitten or attacked anyone.
"It's a shame that he's got a bad rap because he's a pit bull. It's a stereotype that they're bad dogs, when it's the owners who make them that way."
Buster was rescued from a home in Pawtucket two years ago, when his owner could no longer care for him.
"He's honestly one of the best dogs I've had," Mr. Brightman said. "He's great with kids. Mya plays with him and pulls on his ears. He never growls at her."
Ms. Glover and another mail carrier personally delivered mail to Baker Street residents last Friday, accompanied by a police escort.
"It's costly," she said. "We're already short-handed and don't want to have to do this."
Normal mail delivery resumed Monday on the entire street, after Mr. Brightman installed two mail boxes at the edge of the property, close to the street. The mail carrier can deliver the mail safely from within the mail truck, Ms. Glover said.
"(Mr. Brightman) was very cooperative and we were able to get the issue resolved," she said.
Police also conducted their own investigation into the allegations of Buster's attack on the mail carrier. Officers served Mr. Brightman with another summons to appear for another vicious dog hearing, scheduled for next Wednesday, Sept. 25.