There’s a journalism aphorism that says when a dog bites man, it’s not news. It’s only news when man bites dog, the saying goes.
Alicia Patrick, her dog Nano, and her neighbors in a south Minneapolis condo building would disagree with that. So would her lawyer.
This dog tale started when Nano, an 11-pound Coton de Tulear, “a cotton ball with legs,” got off its leash during a walk on June 10. A new mail carrier was delivering mail to a nearby residence. Nano ran at the carrier and, everyone agrees, jumped up on her and barked.
What happened next is in dispute.
Patrick said the carrier didn’t react. Patrick “apologized profusely” and had a brief conversation with the mail carrier after the event. She didn’t seem upset, and never claimed that the dog bit her.
“It was completely my responsibility,” Patrick said. “Nano may have scratched her, and I’m sorry for that. But I don’t think she bit [the carrier].”
The next day, however, Minneapolis Animal Control came to Patrick’s home. The mail carrier had reported that Nano had sniffed at her, then “jumped up and bit her on the inner thigh, causing multiple punctures.” The carrier went to urgent care later that day, the report says. Animal Control did not take photos of the alleged bite because it was near her groin.
While meeting with Animal Control, Patrick agreed to get training for Nano and to keep the dog on a short leash. She also told the Powderhorn Post Office that she would keep her dog inside whenever a delivery was made.
However, without notice, mail delivery was stopped to the entire building on June 11. Patrick’s neighbors have had to pick up their mail at the post office for two weeks.
A post office manager eventually notified residents that they had two options: Get a P.O. box or get rid of Nano. So Patrick either has to move out and lose two months’ rent, or euthanize her dog. (Her agreement with Animal Control forbids her from giving the dog away.)
Patrick’s lawyer, Marshall Tanick, has handled animal cases for decades. “This is the most unusual dog case I’ve ever seen, and the real victims are Alicia, her dog Nano, and the residents of the condo,” Tanick said.
The case is also unusual because Animal Control has so far not offered evidence of a bite, and the U.S. Postal Service is punishing people in the condo who have nothing to do with the incident.
Kris Fountinelle, treasurer for the condo association, has to go to the post office every day to pick up association bills and mail for her business. She calls the situation “absurd,” and said everyone in the building supports Patrick.
“Nano is the sweetest little dog,” said Fountinelle. “My cat is more intimidating.”
“Everybody in the building has been calling the post office to complain, and they don’t return our calls,” Fountinelle said. “It really feels like they want the dog to be destroyed.”
Tanick said the local post office seemed to violate its own national published guidelines for dog bites. Indeed, those guidelines stipulate that the postmaster must call the dog owner immediately (which he didn’t), and send a series of progressive letters “and request that the animal be confined” during deliveries. “Service will be restored upon assurance that the animal will be confined,” the guidelines say.
Patrick has repeatedly agreed to do just that, but it has not been enough. She even gave them a letter from her previous mail carrier, vouching for Nano.
Pete Nowacki, a spokesman for the Postal Service in Minneapolis, said Wednesday they had decided at the local level “to curtail service until it’s resolved,” and the only resolution they will accept is the dog being removed.
So, I read Nowacki the Postal Service’s own guidelines on dog bites.
There was a long silence.
“I’ll look into it and get back to you,” Nowacki said.
I truly thought he would call back, saying the post office had come to its senses and was offering a compromise.
Never underestimate the arrogance of the Postal Service.
Nowacki said those guidelines don’t pertain to “serious attacks,” but he wouldn’t say if Nano’s “attack” was one.
If Patrick moves, will the Postal Service follow her and refuse service at her new home?
“We don’t track where people move,” said Nowacki, who added that if they found out, they would “send information to that station that there was a dangerous dog” and it would be up to them whether to deliver to her house.
So now we have a situation in which a government agency either determines where a person lives, or forces her to kill her dog. They are forcing Patrick, in essence, to go far beyond what Animal Control recommends. And the taxpayers will pick up the tab for an almost certain lawsuit.
For Patrick, the ordeal of trying to solve her issues with the post office while trying to determine if she has to move has been mind-boggling.
“It’s been like an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone,’ ” she said.
For more information see: http://justicefornano.blogspot.com/