COLUMBUS - Mail carriers have heard it time and time again from dog owners.

"Oh, he won't bite," an owner utters only for Fido to try to nip at the carrier.

Battling overly protective and unrestrained dogs can be a daily challenge to mail carriers. And this week, the United States Postal Service is hoping to educate pet owners and the public about the nuisance and danger of unrestrained animals during National Dog Bite Prevention Week, May 16-22.

"A little education and help from the customers to keep their dogs restrained goes a long way in keeping the carriers safe," said Columbus Post Office Supervisor Eric Korus.

Along with children and the elderly, postal service workers are among the most common people to be victims of dog bites, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Aside from the bodily harm a bite can do, there is also a financial toll. The direct costs from dog bites including medical expenses, worker's compensation, legal costs and carrier replacement exceeds $25 million for the Postal Service each year.

To help prevent dog bites, the Postal Service asks customers to keep animals restrained and keep mailboxes in a safe area away from dogs.

Pet owners should also be aware of a new district policy that was implemented last year. If a carrier is challenged or bitten by an aggressive dog, mail delivery can be stopped immediately at that address. Mail will start to be delivered again when the mailbox is relocated to an area deemed safe for the carrier.

It is estimated that 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs every year in the U.S. As part of the post office's efforts to educate the public about safety from dogs, they suggest the following tips to help "stamp out" dog bites:

n When accepting mail at your door, place your dog in a separate room and close the door.

n Don't let your child attempt to take mail from a letter carrier in the presence of a pet because a dog's natural instinct is to protect the family.

n If a dog threatens you, don't scream. Avoid eye contact, remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.

n If you believe a dog is about to attack you, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a purse, a backpack or a bicycle.