Chula Vista woman says postal worker who pepper-sprayed dog was not in danger

Postal officials discussing incident with carrier

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - A Chula Vista woman claims her dog was pepper-sprayed by a postal worker even though she said the dog was locked inside a fenced backyard.

Viviana Alcazar called the incident animal cruelty and believes the postal worker was never in danger.

Alcazar's fence sits next to mailboxes and when her dog Sampson is out, he barks when someone is outside of the fence.

Alcazar said Sampson, a 74-pound pit bull, is a well-trained sweetheart. However, she said Sampson apparently barked at the wrong person Thursday morning.

"About two minutes later, he comes running inside and he's got all this stuff all over his face and he's crying and flipping out," said Alcazar.

She told 10News an oily, yellow residue was on Sampson's face and in his eyes. The substance was later determined to be pepper spray.

"I looked around at the cracks and the little holes in the natural wood and I couldn't see any residue, so I figured he might have just shot it over the fence that way," Alcazar said.

While Sampson can be an imposing figure, Alcazar said he was inside the fenced yard.

"Do you think he was justified?" asked 10News reporter Allison Ash.

"Not at all," Alcazar said.

10News contacted postal officials, and they said the worker was a new hire and a part-timer. While officials said they are questioning him about his actions, they reminded 10News that mail carriers have been attacked by dogs in the past.

In July, a mail carrier's neck was ripped open by a pit bull that bounded out of an unlocked gate. In the last three years, two other postal workers died as a result of dog attacks.

The attacks have made many mail carriers nervous around big dogs and forced some to carry pepper spray.

"I know their job is difficult and I know that they need that for protection, but at the same time, use it with a good conscience and don't use it to threaten or be malicious, because it's cruelty," said Alcazar.

After a trip to the veterinarian and some eye drops, Sampson is none the worse for wear, but Alcazar said he will be staying inside when the mailman is around.

San Diego has one of the highest rates of postal workers being bitten by dogs -- more than 80 per year.

If the postal worker involved in the incident is found to be at fault, he could be forced to pay Sampson's vet bills and could possibly lose his jobs.

At the very least, he will likely receive more training on how to handle dogs.

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