Left: Image via Reddit, with permission. Right:
/ Contributor via Getty Images
For Arturo Solozano, it was just another average day as an Amazon delivery driver. He would drive to a stop, pick out the right package from the back of his van, and walk up to the entrance to set it down before returning to his vehicle. Nothing special. But on one stop, something went wrong. “I was walking back to the step van, and as I was stepping up, I felt something grab me by my ankle and pull me down,” Solozano said. “I thought, ‘What the heck was this?’” Solozano turned around to find a stray dog had bitten him, and drawn blood. “I was like, ‘Damn, this really hurts,” he said. “I called my dispatch, and one of them told me, ‘Just sit tight and try to keep working until I can find someone to help you.’ I was trying to continue on my route. I don’t want to be behind. They’re always asking, ‘How come you’re behind?’ I’m trying to do it, but I just got bit, and it’s hurting a lot to walk.” Solozano tried to continue delivering for almost two hours, while he waited for his dispatcher to find somebody to take his place. On average, Amazon delivery drivers get around 10 hours a day to complete between 150 and 200 stops. In those two hours, Solozano only managed to do nine. “All my stops are pretty close to each other, so those nine stops I could’ve probably done in about 15 minutes, but it was taking over an hour,” he said. “It was just hurting so much. I was like, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I’ve got to go to the hospital.’” The next day, his delivery route took him to the same place, he said. Solozano is far from the only delivery driver to get attacked by a dog while on the job for Amazon. The subreddit for Amazon drivers is full of posts from workers sharing gruesome images of the aftermath of such attacks. Last year, an Amazon driver was found dead on a customer’s front lawn after being attacked by dogs. Though police did not initially announce a cause of death, they said at the time that he had suffered “a tremendous amount of trauma to his body consistent with canine bites.”
Motherboard spoke to four current and former Amazon drivers who have experienced dog attacks while delivering packages and viewed Amazon training materials for drivers. The workers described inadequate training and preparation, like not being permitted to carry self-defense sprays. Amazon’s approach stands in stark contrast to how the United States Postal Service handles the issue, for example by allowing and encouraging mail carriers to use pepper spray and ensuring it is registered in every state where that is necessary. “They just tell us to jingle our keys and make sure there’s no dog,” said Cecilia Porter, a former Amazon delivery driver in California who told Motherboard about two instances when she was attacked by dogs while delivering. Porter and Solozano are members of a group of drivers that unionized with the Teamsters in April—their delivery company’s contract with Amazon has since been terminated. Amazon spokesperson Simone Griffin told Motherboard in an emailed statement that the company trained drivers to “practice dog avoidance,” and to “immediately seek assistance” if they saw a dog or signs of a dog, like a water bowl or a leash. “We provide safety training to drivers as part of [drivers’] onboarding, and then ongoing throughout their tenure,” Griffin said. “The training courses communicate important safety topics, such as safe package loading, driving practices, pet awareness and avoidance, and that the drivers should never deliver in situations that they feel unsafe.”Griffin shared sample training videos, such as how drivers can identify dog clues and report a dog on their route. One video tells drivers to make their presence known by honking their horn, shaking their keys, and saying “Amazon delivery!” The video quotes Amazon’s Dog Bite Prevention Training as saying that these actions will “help gain the attention of dogs” in order for drivers to identify them.Multiple drivers who spoke to Motherboard also said they had been told to “jiggle” or “jingle” their keys when approaching a house to alert any potential dogs of their presence. Other tips drivers have shared included keeping an eye on the dog, keeping their arms at their sides to appear non-threatening, and placing a package between themselves and the dog. Motherboard obtained from a driver a copy of an article from the Amazon Flex app, which allows individuals to sign up to deliver packages using their personal vehicles, that explained what a driver should do if there is a dog at their stop. The article is from the Learning Portal section of the app, where drivers can find instructional resources. Griffin told Motherboard that both Flex drivers and Amazon delivery associates had access to the same basic training information, as well as more specific information depending on what vehicle they were using or how they were contracted. “When you’re out delivering, you’ll probably see dogs and other pets,” the article begins. “Many of them will be friendly, but some of them won’t. Remember: your safety is important to us and if you ever feel unsafe during a delivery, you don’t have to deliver the package.”
“They just tell us to jingle our keys”
Multiple drivers have previously told Motherboard that they can face disciplinary action if they do not deliver all their packages, or fall behind on their routes. “If you think there might be a dog around, but don’t see one, be careful as you approach the customer’s location,” the article says. It then says that when the driver notifies the customer of their arrival, the customer will be asked to “please secure any pets.” Drivers can also add a paw print icon to customer stops to inform future drivers that a dog is on the premises. The Flex app does not appear to address what a driver should do if they are actually attacked by a dog, or how to prevent such attacks. Motherboard viewed an FAQ page on the Flex app after creating an account, which instructs drivers to stand still and let dogs approach them, and warns drivers to look out for “growling or bared teeth” and to contact the customer to come and secure visibly unfriendly dogs. If the customer does not respond, drivers are instructed to call Support.
“We can’t defend ourselves”
The driver who sent the Learning Portal article to Motherboard said they did not know of any other instructions in writing regarding how to deal with dogs. “This is what I’ve found, but overall, I feel the system is not great for drivers, especially if they’re going to be penalized for not delivering,” the driver said. The driver also told Motherboard that they were not permitted to carry any defensive sprays. “I don’t think that’s fair, that we can’t carry any weapons. We can’t defend ourselves,” they said. They recounted an instance after they had been attacked by a dog while on a delivery, when they asked their management if they could carry some form of pepper spray or mace, and were told they could not. The materials viewed by Motherboard relating to dog bites do not mention sprays or any kind of self-defense. Amazon spokesperson Simone Griffin told Motherboard that, “Delivery Associates and Amazon Flex delivery partners are free to carry dog deterrent devices as long as they comply with state and local laws,” but said that it was against the company’s policies for people delivering its packages to carry items that are legally considered weapons. While pepper spray for self-defense is legal in many jurisdictions, often with restrictions, it may still be considered a “weapon.” For example, Chicago's municipal code only bans discharging pepper spray in an enclosed space such as a bar, but it is included in a section called "firearms and other weapons." Griffin said that it is up to delivery service partners (DSPs)—third-party contractors that employ Amazon drivers—to interpret relevant laws. Griffin also said that the company had begun pilot-testing a small dog-distancing device using sound and light to create space between a driver and a dog at a select few delivery stations earlier in the year. Amazon declined to share images of the device with Motherboard.
Amazon Flex app guidelines for dog encounters. Screengrab: Amazon Flex
Dog bites are an all-too-common reality for Amazon delivery drivers. “I was delivering to someone’s house. I got out of my van, and right when I got out, there was a dog there,” said one driver on the East Coast, who requested to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns. “It seemed friendly at first. It didn’t do anything. I was talking to her, and I had a box in front of me, and then out of nowhere, the dog started jumping on me.”
Do you work for Amazon? Do you know more about the company’s dog safety or self-defense policies, or have you seen its deterrent device? We’d love to hear from you. From a non-work phone or email, you can contact Jules Roscoe at email@example.com or on Signal at (415) 763-7705.
“She had long unclipped nails and they were dragging down my torso,” the driver continued. “I used the package to try to get her off of me, and she ripped the package out of my hand onto the ground. I was like, ‘Oh my God, she’s going to bite me.’” The driver said the dog knocked them to the ground and that they had to fight it off to get back to their van. When they drove away, they said it chased them down the road.“I didn’t stop until I felt something wet on my back,” they said. “I took my hand, and I touched my back and put my hand in front of myself. And I just saw blood all over my hand. I called my management and told them what happened. They didn’t really want me to leave. They were upset that I got attacked by a dog and couldn’t finish delivering the packages. They didn’t have any sympathy about it.” The driver posted gruesome photos of their back injuries to Reddit.Beyond the stories drivers told Motherboard, grisly images of dog attack aftermath populate the Amazon driver subreddit, r/AmazonDSPDrivers. A page search for “dog” or “bite” yields bloody legs, gashes in arms, and even attacks to the face. Motherboard has reached out to some of the drivers who posted these images, though not all have responded. After an Amazon driver was found dead after being attacked by a customer’s dogs last year, Amazon reminded its drivers to look out for “four-legged customers” while on the job. “Our deepest sympathies continue to be with the victim’s family and loved ones,” Griffin said.The DSP system gives Amazon a convenient arms-length relationship with employees. The group of drivers that Solozano and Porter were members of unionized with the Teamsters in April, and demanded that Amazon bargain a contract with them. Amazon refused to do so, saying the DSP was responsible for the drivers’ conditions—but the Teamsters said that Amazon itself was in “complete control” of the DSP’s operations. When reporting on these events, Motherboard published a story referring to “Amazon delivery drivers” in the headline. Amazon asked for this to be changed to “drivers delivering for Amazon,” which distances itself from the drivers and any problems they might face. The threat of dog bites is not a problem exclusive to workers delivering for Amazon. Dogs pose a big threat in the delivery industry as a whole. By definition, being a delivery driver involves going onto people’s property, which a protective dog might easily perceive as a threat. “Dog incidents are a safety concern for anyone who delivers mail, packages, meals, or provides other at-home customer services,” Amazon spokesperson Griffin said. “Our goal is to prevent and reduce these injuries, which is why we work with our partners to provide dog avoidance training, dog deterrent devices, and remind drivers that no one is required to complete a delivery if they feel unsafe. We also encourage our customers to help by securing their dogs when a delivery is scheduled, so drivers can deliver packages safely.” Other delivery services, like the United States Postal Service, have found ways to deal with this problem that include providing materials for self-defense. The USPS annually releases its dog attack data in an effort to inform its customers. One press release from the USPS, announcing its annual National Dog Bite Awareness Week campaign this past June, said that over 5,300 postal service workers were attacked by dogs in 2022. “Aggressive dog behavior is a common safety concern USPS employees face,” the press release stated. “To keep its workers safe, the organization is providing important information on how dog owners can be good stewards for safe mail delivery…Many attacks reported by letter carriers came from dogs whose owners regularly stated, ‘My dog won’t bite.’ Dog bites are entirely preventable. One bite is one too many.” Griffin told Motherboard that Amazon does track dog injury data, and that the data proved it was making progress, but that the company would not be sharing access to it. The press release details some training postal service workers are given, including to “make some noise or rattle a fence to alert a dog if entering a yard,” and to “place their foot against an outward swinging door to prevent a dog from escaping.” Mail carriers leave warning cards at residences where dogs are “known to interfere with delivery of mail,” which is a step up from Amazon's paw print icon which only indicates a dog is on site. “If a dog attacks, carriers are also trained to stand their ground and protect their body by placing something between them and the dog—such as a mail satchel—and to use dog repellent, if necessary,” the press release states. The USPS allows its workers to carry dog repellent pepper spray, which has been accepted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Pesticides Regulation Branch and is registered by the Environmental Protection Agency. On the state level, the informational rulebook on the spray says it is registered “in all states requiring such registration. The significance of these registrations is that they identify the product(s) as effective and safe.”“If a dog attacks you, use the repellent to protect yourself,” the instructional manual states. “Spray the repellent directly at the eyes, nose, and mouth of the attacking dog by pressing the control on top of the container,” it instructs. “When it comes to our security, it's nonexistent,” an Amazon driver told Motherboard. “We have nothing. I can't give you one piece of advice to tell a driver what to do if they’re attacked by a dog, besides going into your truck, going to grab your phone. The world just doesn’t work like that. But apparently in Amazon’s cartoon world, they feel like it does.”
“I just saw blood all over my hand”