USPS suspends delivery due to dog, judge files complaint with PRC

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It’s not uncommon for the Postal Service to suspend delivery to a residence or even a whole block as a result of a dog problem.  The issue usually gets resolved after the customer takes steps to restrain the dog.  It’s not the kind of thing that typically ends up going to the Postal Regulatory Commission for adjudication. 

But that’s what happened last week.  A complaint has been filed with the PRC challenging the Postal Service’s suspension of mail to a resident in Pomona, California, over a dog issue.  It may be the first such PRC complaint of its kind.

In January, the Postal Service stopped delivering the mail to the home of Rosalyn Goodman because there was allegedly a “vicious dog” on the premises.  Mrs. Goodman is 91 years old and unable to get around very well, so she depends on the Postal Service to deliver food and other necessities. 

As it turns out, Mrs. Goodman’s son is James D. Goodman, an Administrative Law Judge who works in the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) in Pasadena.

As one might expect, Judge Goodman’s complaint is extremely formal and thorough, and it includes lengthy excerpts from several relevant statutes in postal law and federal disability law.

The complaint states that “the contention that there is a ‘vicious dog’ on the premises is a pure canard calculated to avoid the requirement that mails be delivered to the standard mail box located on the curb, adjacent to the street, or to the front door of the house, where the mails exceed the capacity of the standard mail box.”  It goes on to note that over the past four years there have been many mail delivery problems at this address.

According to the complaint, “The dog, on the premises, is a good natured animal used for comfort and companionship, and is never outside the interior of the premises, except in a gated backyard, while Rosalyn Goodman is at home alone.  All of these facts were made known to Alejandro L. Peralta and other employees and other agents of the U.S. Postal Service.  Despite knowledge of these circumstances, Rosalyn Goodman has been deprived of reasonable accommodation as required under Title 26, Chapter 126 (Americans With Disabilities Act).”

In January, Judge Goodman also filed a FOIA request for documents related to the case, but the complaint states that “the Postmaster General, the Postmaster of Pomona California and their employees have failed or refused to comply with FOIA as demanded in Exhibit B.”

The Postal Service has informed Mrs. Goodman that in order to have her mail service restored, she will need to meet with a delivery supervisor at the post office. She is also being required to bring a copy of the current Dog License and Rabies Vaccination Certificate for her dog and to sign a commitment to restrain the animal.

The Goodman complaint states that “there is no authority of the postal service to impose documentary indemnification, bonding or other assurances from home owners as a condition of mail delivery.  Absent reasonable cause, carriers are required to make home delivery to the mail recipient at the addresses designated for delivery. “

The complaint concludes by asking the Commission to order the Postal Service to re-institute mail service to the Goodman residence “without condition or limitation, impose sanctions upon each of the respondents including removal, award damages, costs and fees as allowed under the circumstances and provide such other additional relief may be appropriate.”

There’s no procedural schedule for the complaint yet.  The regulations say that the Commission has 90 days to rule.  The Postal Service will probably file a response in a few days. 

(Photo credit: USPS delivering mail)

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