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Utility reports record number of dog attacks

Asks for customer assistance

A series of dog attacks this summer on meter readers has Consumers Energy again asking customers to help employees work safely by making sure dogs are leashed or confined away from natural gas and electric meters.

In just the last two weeks, Consumers Energy meter readers have reported six dog attacks, and there have been a record 14 dog bite incidents since the start of the year, compared to six during all of 2011, said Michele Kirkland, the utility’s vice president of energy operations.

Five employees have been injured as a result of the 2012 attacks, compared with three injuries in all of 2011. These bites often required medical treatment to close wounds and to prevent subsequent infection and illness. One dog attack required the employee to be hospitalized and resulted in stitches to close wounds on his face and neck.

In some cases, dogs were released from the house as the employee attempted to read the meter. Those occasions are particularly dangerous to meter readers and Consumers Energy will be following up with those customers directly to protect the safety of its employees, Kirkland said.

“This is a serious situation that puts our employees who are out performing their jobs at risk of severe injury,” Kirkland said. “Working safely is Consumers Energy’s top priority and we need our dog-owning customers to help us accomplish this goal.”

Fortunately, evasive action by the employees avoided injury during many of the attacks. Meter readers have begun carrying dog wands as a distraction tool enabling them to better escape dog attacks and avoid injury. One version looks like a stick with a tennis ball at the end and diverts the dog’s attention away from the employee’s body during an attack.

Employees will not enter a yard to read a meter where there is believed to be an unrestrained dog. This will result in recording only estimated energy usage for the customer’s next bill, as well as a notation about the dog on the customer account, Kirkland said.

“Even the most gentle, well-mannered dog can become protective and aggressive around people it doesn’t know,” Kirkland said. “We sincerely appreciate the cooperation from our customers to help keep our employees safe.”

Consumers Energy customers can obtain the meter reading schedule for their home by accessing the utility’s website at www.consumersenergy.com. 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 information will make customers aware of scheduled dates when a meter reader is expected to visit, and allow homeowners to take appropriate actions with their pets. Customers can also obtain the schedule by calling the utility’s toll-free number, (800) 477-5050.

If a customer’s dog must be loose near their meter, they can avoid estimated bills by reporting meter reads electronically through an eServices profile on the utility’s website, or by reporting them through the toll-free number listed 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 its family.

Consumers Energy provides natural gas and electricity to nearly 6.8 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

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