By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles has earned the dubious distinction for the second year in a row as the U.S. city with the most dog attacks on mail carriers, the U.S. Postal Service said.
California's biggest city accounted for 69 such attacks in fiscal 2012, which ended in September, compared with 42 attacks each in Seattle, Washington, and San Antonio, Texas, which tied for second place. Chicago ranked third with 41 attacks.
The Postal Service said there were 5,879 dog attacks on U.S. postal carriers in the United States that year.
In 2011, Los Angeles led the pack with 83 dog attacks on mail carriers, but the city has placed in the top 20 for many years, Postal Service spokeswoman Eva Jackson said on Thursday.
San Diego and Houston ranked second and third, respectively, in 2011, Jackson said.
The year-round fair weather of cities like Los Angeles and San Diego could be a factor, she suggested. "People are out more with their dogs, things like that."
But towns such as Philadelphia, Detroit, Minneapolis and Buffalo, New York, all ranked in the top 20 this year as well.
No particular breeds of dogs were singled out in the report. And Jackson said the problem lies not so much with vicious dogs but as with absent-minded or careless pet owners.
"All dogs can bite, and it's a dog's natural instinct to protect its territory and protect its owner," Jackson said. "So if you're out front with your dog who is a very nice dog, and they're not on a leash, and all of a sudden a letter carrier comes up ... their natural instinct is to go get that guy. He's on my territory."
Jackson said homeowners should keep their dogs behind closed doors or in a backyard behind a fence when their mail is delivered, or when school children or other unfamiliar people are nearby.
She cited statistics showing that dog bites account for more than a third of all U.S. homeowners' insurance liability claims.
The latest Postal Service rankings came about a week after a 63-year-old woman was mauled to death by four loose pit bulls while walking alone in the community of Littlerock, California, about 65 miles east of Los Angeles.
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Richard Chang)