Sharp Increase in Dog Bites Prompts Call for Assistance

In the first three months of this year, three of our employees suffered dog bites while on the job, versus a total of six incidents for the entire year of 2011. One incident required stitches to close the bite wound on an employee’s hand. That’s a 100 percent increase in dog bites during the first quarter of 2012 compared to all of 2011. That’s why we are asking you to help our employees work safely by making sure dogs are leashed or confined away from our natural gas and electric meters.

Michele Kirkland, vice president of energy operations for Consumers Energy, thinks the early spring and warm temperatures we experienced in Michigan caused people to leave their dogs outside during the day. “This created a potential hazard for service providers like utility workers and shipping carriers,” she said. “Even the most gentle, well-mannered dog can become protective and aggressive around people it doesn’t know.”

Our meter readers are particularly susceptible to encounters with dogs while reading meters. Dogs have sometimes been found leashed to gas or electric meters, or left loose inside an area that contains these meters, making it extremely difficult and potentially dangerous for our employees to perform their duties.  This can result in estimated energy use as well as a notation about the dog on the customer account.

To help minimize the risk of dog encounters with our employees, we ask that you obtain the Meter Reading Schedule for your home from our website. Once there, an eServices profile can be quickly established or accessed and a meter reading schedule obtained by clicking on “My History,” then Energy Use, and then on the Meter Reading Schedule tab. This will show you scheduled dates when a meter reader is expected to visit so you can take appropriate actions with your pets. The schedule can also be obtained by calling 1-800-477-5050.

If your dog must be loose near your meter, you can avoid estimated bills by reporting meter reads electronically through an eServices profile on our website, or by reporting them through the toll-free number above.

Here are some tips provided by the United States Postal Service and the Humane Society of the United States on how to responsibly handle your dog and avoid having it bite.

  • When a service provider comes to your home, keep your dog inside, away from the door, in another room or on a leash.
  • Don’t let a child or other family member get close to a service provider in the presence of your dog. A dog’s primary instinct is to “protect” the family.

These additional tips for service providers could also help prevent dog bites:

  • Don’t run past a dog. The dog’s natural instinct is to chase and catch prey.
  • If a dog threatens you, try not to scream. Avoid eye contact; try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
  • Don’t approach a strange dog, especially one that’s tied or confined.
  • Always let a dog see and sniff you before you pet the animal.