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An unexpected result for some census takers: the wrath of irate Americans

Dallas regional director Gabriel Sanchez said occasional encounters with dogs and protective property owners are par for the course in any census.

"It's not that people are waiting to gun down a government worker or waiting to assault a census worker," he said. "Some people have a strong need for privacy and being left alone. I'm sure they would treat the FedEx man the same way."

Soto, the pit bull victim, says census takers should be permitted to carry weapons, such as pepper spray, to ward off harm.

"If I'd had pepper spray in my pocket, I probably would have had a good chance of not losing my hand," said Soto, 38, who was earning $15 an hour and saving for a vacation with her children and a used car.

The dog bit Soto in the stomach, leg and hand. The census is paying for her doctor's bills, medication and replacement clothing. She doesn't know when she will be physically able to return to her regular job as a special-education teacher's aide.

Steven Jost, a spokesman for the Census Bureau, said it is unlikely that the policy prohibiting census workers from carrying weapons will be rescinded. After the 2010 census is completed, officials will examine all incidents to determine whether changes are needed to reduce risks, for both workers and the public. The number of verified incidents might go down after analysis.

Chesney, for one, won't be back for another census unless she's offered an office position.

"I want to help my country," she said. "I want us to have funding for schools, and all the things that are involved with the census. But I'm not putting my life at risk."


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