A recent spate of canine attacks has prompted the United States Postal Service to issue an ultimatum to 500 Armistead Gardens residents: Move your mailbox to the street, or your mail will not be delivered -- even if you don't own a dog.
The new rule, announced March 19, may be the first regulation of its kind to be issued by the Postal Service in Baltimore, postal officials say.
The department typically takes action against the owner of a troublesome pet -- but not against an entire neighborhood.
Reaction to the regulation has been swift.
Several residents in the small working-class community of cinder-block rowhouses and chain-link fences have refused to comply, deciding instead to declare war on the Postal Service.
"I won't move my mailbox. I don't feel I should have to because I don't own a dog," said Lisa Kiser, 30, who lives in a two-story rowhouse in the 5300 block of Wright Ave. She hasn't received mail since Friday.
Kiser is one of a handful of people circulating a petition in the neighborhood, denouncing the Postal Service's decision. And Letty Herold, a long-time resident, wrote to Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, imploring the 3rd District Democrat to protect her door-side mail delivery.
Their efforts have attracted the attention of the acting postmaster of Baltimore, Michael S. Furey, who said yesterday that his office will review the new rule.
"We're going to determine on a case-by-case basis whether customers will have to move their mailbox," Furey said. "We will do the right thing."
The controversial rule was implemented April 4, several weeks after John Kyte, the mail carrier for postal route 531, claimed he was attacked by dogs for the eighth time in 11 months.
"A lot of people are not happy about moving their boxes," said Kyte, who has been delivering mail in Armistead Gardens for about 18 months. "I understand that.
"But if they put themselves in my position, they wouldn't be complaining. I'm not safe out here."
Residents agreed the job is dangerous but said moving their mailboxes to the street isn't the solution because -- contrary to what Kyte claims -- the culprits are usually stray dogs that roam the streets, not pets that are penned in their yards.
"We have a lot of strays in this area. People drive up Pulaski Highway and drop their dogs off here, or leave them behind when they move," said F. Neel Stewart, president of the board of directors of Armistead Homes Corp.
Last year, nearly 3,000 letter carriers in the United States were attacked by dogs, according to Mark Saunders, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Washington. The attacks cost the department about $25 million in medical costs, substitute carriers and lawyers' fees, he said.
"We try to minimize the danger for all our carriers," said Furey. "They're given safety training. They're provided with defensive Mace and they are instructed to protect themselves with their satchel."
But that's not enough, Kyte said. He refuses to deliver mail to people who own troublesome dogs -- a decision that is supported by department policy.
"If a dog has presented itself as a safety hazard, the postal carriers are not required to deliver mail to their owner," said Furey.
"I can understand requiring people who own dogs to move their mailboxes, but I don't have a dog," said Jesse Bailey, 60, who lives on the border of route 531.
"I feel I should get the same service my neighbor gets. I don't think that moving the mailboxes is going to prevent dog attacks. It's just going to make it easier for people to steal my mail."
Stolen mail is a cause for concern for many Armistead Gardens residents who depend on Social Security checks.
More than 20 percent of the 3,566 people who live in Armistead Gardens are 65 or older, census figures show.
But elderly residents are not the only ones complaining about the new postal policy. People who don't own dogs are also upset, claiming the new rule penalizes them for the behavior of their neighbors' dogs or -- even worse -- the behavior of a stray animal.
"I get a child support check every week," said Kiser. "But this week -- nothing. No check. No bills. Not even junk mail."
It is the first time in memory that Kiser's mail has not arrived at her front stoop.
"I've lived here my entire life," she said. "Since before I was born, the mail has been delivered to the door. It shouldn't change now because one mailman has a problem with dogs."
Pub Date: 4/10/97