DEXTER, Maine — Ali, a 10-month-old, 5-pound Chihuahua, began to bark Saturday morning, and when 7-year-old Kelsey Wintle looked outside to see why, she saw a female postal worker pepper-spraying her puppy.
The girl ran outside and grabbed her dog, but in the process was sprayed in the face by the 57-year-old letter carrier, said her mother, Caitlin Wintle.
“My daughter went to pick up Ali and she continued to spray,” Wintle said just hours after the incident. “The whole time the woman was mouthing off and swearing.”
After the girl grabbed her puppy and turned away, the woman stopped spraying and “my daughter collapsed to the ground in tears, saying, ‘My dog is going to die. My dog is going to die,’” Wintle said. “Kelsey’s eyes were bright red and swollen, and she was having a hard time breathing. I had to call 911.”
The Chihuahua “was also yelping and rubbing her eyes with her tiny paws,” she said.
The woman applied so much spray to the dog and the child that the hair of both hardened shortly afterward, Wintle said.
As an ambulance crew checked out Kelsey Wintle, Maine State Police Trooper Larry Anderson arrived to begin his investigation.
The Dexter U.S. Post Office employee, whom police are not identifying, continued on with her route after the 9:50 a.m. incident at the Wintles’ house.
“She had been bitten by a dog in the past and she just reacted,” Anderson said of the postal worker Saturday afternoon.
The case was still under investigation and “at this point, she has not been charged yet,” Anderson said Sunday.
Pepper spray is an effective self-defense tool that many police officers, prison guards and delivery personnel use. The spray causes pain and difficulties in breathing and irritates eyes for about 20 to 30 minutes and it “is capable of stopping a big aggressive attacker,” the defendingwomen.com Web site states.
“I’m just really shocked,” Wintle said. “She’s a little 5-pound Chihuahua. She wouldn’t hurt a fly. You would have thought the dog was a pit bull biting her from the way she acted. It’s almost like she was angry at something and came here and totally exploded.”
When let out on Sunday, the little dog would not leave the porch, Wintle said. Her daughter also is afraid to go outside, “fearing another unprovoked attack from someone she should be able to trust, such as a postal delivery professional,” her mother said in an e-mail.
“I am praying the United States Postal Service re-looks at their policies, procedures and training [in] reference [to] the use of force especially when young children are around.”
Efforts to contact the Dexter post office on Saturday for a comment were unsuccessful.
Wintle, who said she also tried to call her local post office, said she planned to go down in person Monday to submit a written grievance against the woman.
“I don’t want her delivering here,” she said.
The dog on Sunday showed no signs of physical injury and her daughter was recovering well, Wintle said.
“She looks like somebody punched her in the face, but she’s doing much better,” she said.