Bethlehem man, woman cited in pit bull attack that injured mail carrier

Bethlehem police cited two people in a vicious pit bull attack Thursday on a mail carrier in the city.

The postal worker, whom police and postal service officials have declined to identify, suffered wounds to her face, hands, arms, chest and leg. She was treated at and released from St. Luke’s University Hospital in Fountain Hill.

Bethlehem police cited Nelly Santiago, 46 and Hector Vazquez, 21, both of the 1500 block Elayne Street, for failing both to keep the dog confined and obtain proper licensing and vaccinations for the animal. Police Lt. Mark DiLuzio said Vazquez was the owner, but Santiago helped take care of the canine. The relationship between Santiago and Vazquez is unclear.

A phone number listed for the Elayne Street address was disconnected.

City resident Lynda Gossen said today she saw the same 70-pound pit bull approaching her Thursday afternoon on Livingston Street.

She was unaware the dog had just attacked the mail carrier about 1 o’clock near Santiago and Vazquez’s home. But the incident took the 65-year-old back 41 years to the day she was attacked by a guard dog at an auto body shop in Philadelphia.

“My first thought was to grab its collar, but then a woman was screaming, ‘Don’t touch the dog!’ and a police officer started yelling, ‘Get away from the dog!’ I couldn’t move anywhere though,” Gossen said. “Everywhere I’d move, the dog was there.”

The pit bull did not harm Gossen. She said it trotted by her and a city police officer was able to corral and capture it.

“It was a really scary thing,” she said.

Deterrent spray failed

DiLuzio said the postal worker tried to use her defensive dog spray to stop the attack, but the dog was undeterred. It did not become aggressive with officers when it was detained, he said.

Ray Daiutolo Sr., a regional spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, said the agency continually reminds workers of the dangers of dog attacks and tries to promote responsible dog ownership among residents.

“The postal service places the safety of its employees as a top priority,” Daiutolo said today in an email. “Letter carriers fearing for their safety due to a loose or unrestrained pet may curtail delivery and ask homeowners to pick up their mail at the post office until the carrier is assured the pet is restrained. In cases where a carrier sees a dog roaming and can’t discern where it resides, delivery could be curtailed to the entire neighborhood.”

Dogs in Bethlehem must be leashed or confined, DiLuzio said, and must be licensed and current on vaccinations such as rabies. Animals considered vicious have to comply with a slew of additional state law requirements, according to DiLuzio.

No past attack record

The police lieutenant said the department did not have any records of an attack from this dog in the past. The animal is being quarantined at the owner’s home, he said.

Gossen, who lives on Livingston Street, said she worries that confinement won’t be enough.

“My concern is the dog got out once to attack a postal worker. It can get out again,” Gossen said. “And there are a lot of young children in this neighborhood.”

DiLuzio said a follow-up investigation will determine the dog’s fate.

Gossen, who said she has managed to overcome her fear of dogs and has a small pup of her own, feels great compassion for the mail carrier hurt in the attack.

“My heart goes out to this postal worker because you just don’t get over it fully,” she said. “Pit bulls will always bother her — shepherds will always bother me. When your outside scars heal, you still have to deal with those inside scars.”

Related topics: bethlehem, crime, hector vazquez, nelly santiago, us postal service

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