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The Mail Won't Go Through; Would You?

May 03, 2003|Li Fellers | Times Staff Writer

For more than two weeks, the U.S. Postal Service has refused to deliver mail on the block in Watts where Gator Reddic lives.

The problem is that Gator has chased and threatened his postal carrier twice, and she worries that next time he might sink his teeth into her 4-foot-8-inch, 94-pound frame.

Gator, a 4-year-old white and brindle pit bull, waits on a chain beside his house. The post office has demanded that his owner, Edward Reddic, either install a fence or properly restrain Gator.

But the demand was made in a written notice. And because mail wasn't being delivered, the letter sat with the rest of Reddic's mail at the post office, awaiting pickup.

Similar notices informing the other residents in the 2500 block of 113th Street why their mail isn't being delivered were also bundled with their mail at the post office. Some didn't find out until this week.

The whole mess began in November, when Gator lunged at Linda Heyman, ripping her shirt and nearly biting her in the stomach.

Then, on April 10, he slipped his collar, bolted across the street and chased her, Heyman said. She frantically used her pushcart full of mail to fend him off.

"I almost got ate up by a dog," she said. "He almost had my stomach last time. This time he could have had all of me."

Heyman, 36, said she started having nightmares about the dog attacking her.

It's a serious problem faced by letter carriers everywhere. Last year, dogs bit mail carriers 3,000 times in the United States, said Los Angeles district spokeswoman Terri Bouffiou.

Bouffiou said officials try to work with the owners, often sending warning letters and asking the owners to better control their dogs. The post office will, as a last resort, withhold mail from a residence and even a block, Bouffiou said.

Patrick McCloskey, the interim postmaster at Beverly Hills and the former superintendent in charge in Pacific Palisades, said it's a tool he's used in both areas. "We're so safety conscious, we don't want our employees to be injured," McCloskey said. "We try to be as proactive as we can."

Lillie Shelton, manager of customer service at the post office that serves Gator's block, said the staff made every effort to avoid halting the mail, but thought there was no choice.

A form letter was mailed to the home after the April 10 incident requesting a meeting, Shelton said. The post office got no response.

The dog was seen loose again, and on April 15, mail delivery was halted, Shelton said. But the letters written to Reddic requesting a fence or other option and those written to residents about the halting of mail couldn't be delivered.

Residents found out only if they called the post office. They were told to pick up their mail. "It's kind of my fault," said Reddic, 23. "It's my dog. I don't blame her for not wanting to come down the block anymore." Reddic said he got a better chain and is looking at having a gate installed or moving Gator elsewhere.

"Gator is a family dog," said Reddic. "It's just the uniform."

Despite two visits to Gator's home, postal officials still haven't spoken with his owner, Shelton said. A spokeswoman for Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Lakewood) said her office began working Thursday with animal control officials and the post office to resolve the matter.

Meanwhile, some residents are angry, and not at Gator.

Arzina L.F. Robinson, who runs a home for families across the street, said the post office hasn't handled the situation properly.

"Our problem is the post office, not them," Robinson said.

She said the nine families living there depend on the checks they receive in the mail and were never warned that the mail was going to stop. They found out when she called the post office this week.

Neighbor Ian Nacer, 20, said he and his parents learned Thursday. They simply thought nothing had been sent to them and were dismayed when they realized it was all at the post office.

"Oh man!" he said. "We've probably got bills there for power and gas."

*

Times staff writer Monte Morin contributed to this report.

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