Top Tips for Dog Owners
Even the most lovable dog can be a danger to postal staff. Dogs are territorial by nature and if they feel they need to protect their family, they can become unpredictable.
Here are some ideas to help your postman deliver your post in safety:
- Ensure your dog is out of the way before the postman or postwoman arrives. Place your pet in the back garden or a faraway room.
- Never open the door when your dog is behind you
- If you have a back garden, please close off the access, in case your dog could get around to the front when the postman or postwoman calls.
- Dog attacks can happen when you’ve opened the door to sign for an item. Please keep your dog in another room before answering the door and make sure children don’t open the door, as dogs can push by them and attack.
- Give your dog some food or a toy to occupy them while your mail is being delivered.
- Wait 10 minutes after your mail has arrived to let your pet back into your hallway. Keep everything as calm and low-key as possible.
- If your dog likes to attack your mail, consider installing a wire letter receptacle. It will protect your post, and your postman’s or postwoman’s fingers
- If it’s not practical for you to keep your dog away from a postman or postwoman delivering your mail, please consider fitting a secure mailbox on the edge of your property.
Postal Worker Mark Evans from Liverpool talks to Inspector Kate Wilkinson about what home owners can do to prevent dog bites on postal workers.
ROYAL MAIL REPORTS OVER 1,900 ATTACKS ON POSTIES LAST YEAR
Royal Mail today announced there were 1,916 dog attacks reported on its staff last year, an average of 37 attacks every week across the UK, with some leading to permanent and disabling injuries.
The figures have been released at the start of the 11th annual Dog Awareness Week which runs from 3 - 9 July and encourages responsible dog ownership. Royal Mail is appealing to dog owners to ensure they understand the often-devastating impact of dog attacks on postmen and postwomen and take proper measures to ensure their pets pose no threat to postal workers through responsible dog ownership. *See below for tips and advice for dog owners.
Staff in the TN (Tunbridge Wells) postcode area reported the most incidents during the year to 31 March 2023, with 65 postmen or women suffering dog attacks, followed by BT (Belfast), with 56 attacks. The S (Sheffield) postcode is in third place with 50 attacks on Royal Mail colleagues.
As in previous years, the majority of dog attacks, 902 (47%), took place at the front door. A further 515 (27%) of dog attacks took place in the garden, drive or yard. 118 (6%) of attacks took place in the street or road.
There were 381 injuries suffered through the letterbox - accounting for 20% of attacks on postal workers. Letterbox attacks were the subject of a 2020 High Court ruling that stated dog owners (or those in care of a dog) can be prosecuted if their pets have free access to the letterbox and cause injury to any delivery operative, whether the owner is at home or not.
Dog attacks on Royal Mail colleagues resulted in more than 3014 days of absence in 2022/23 with the longest period of absence being 139 days.
According to figures issued by the PDSA (People's Dispensary for Sick Animals), dog ownership in the UK has risen steadily over the past three years, increasing from 9.6m in 2021 to 11m in 2023.
Royal Mail knows that dogs are not inherently dangerous, but, even the most placid animal can be prone to attack if it feels either it or its territory is being threatened. Royal Mail is committed to ensuring the welfare and safety of our people who provide a valuable service to our customers across the length and breadth of the UK and in every community.
The top 10 postcode areas for dog attacks:
The TN (Tunbridge Wells) postcode area had most incidents reported during the year, with 65 Royal Mail postal workers falling victim to dog attacks. This represents a 48% increase from the previous year, that saw 44 dog attacks. The TN postcode area has featured in the Top 10 list for dog attacks for nine consecutive years. This is the first time the postcode area has topped the list for dog attacks on Royal Mail postal workers.
The BT (Belfast) postcode area placed second this year with 56 attacks. The area saw a 12% increase on the 50 dog attacks on Royal Mail staff last year. This is the second consecutive year the postcode area has placed in the no. 2 spot. The BT postcode area has appeared in every Top 10 list since Royal Mail began releasing figures on yearly attacks in 2013. It has topped the list for attacks four times.
The S (Sheffield) postcode area saw a 2% drop on attacks compared to last year, but still placed in third place, down from first place last year. There were 50 attacks on Royal Mail postal workers this year, compared to 51 last year. This is the third consecutive year that attacks in the postcode area have dropped – (there were 55 attacks in 2020/21). The S postcode area has appeared in every one of the Top 10 lists for dog attacks on Royal Mail postal workers since the inaugural Dog Awareness Week in 2013 and topped the list for dog attacks three times.
The PO (Portsmouth) postcode area placed in fourth spot with 49 dog attacks on Royal Mail’s delivery staff. The figure sees a 44% increase compared to 34 attacks in the previous year. This is the sixth consecutive year that the PO postcode has placed in the top 10 list for dog attacks on postal staff. It has appeared in the top 10 list seven times since the inaugural Dog Awareness Week in 2013.
The BS (Bristol) postcode area placed in fifth place this year having dropped out of the top 10 in 2022. This year saw 42 dog attacks on Royal Mail staff up from 27, a 56% increase. This is the third time the BS postcode has featured in the top 10 – 2017 and 2021 the previous two occasions.
The SA (Swansea) postcode area is in sixth place for dog attacks on Royal Mail postal workers. This is only the second time the SA postcode area has featured in the top 10 list for dog attacks (2022 being the first). The area recorded 41 attacks on Royal Mail staff this year, compared to 37 in 2022 – an 11% increase.
The EX (Exeter) postcode area placed in seventh place with 38 reports of attacks on Royal Mail staff. This figure saw a 19% increase on last year’s 32 attacks. The postcode area has appeared in the top 10 list three times - since Royal Mail began releasing postcode specific figures on yearly attacks – the previous two being 2019 and 2022.
The NG (Nottingham) postcode takes eighth spot. Attacks on Royal Mail staff remained at the same level as the previous year with 37 attacks. This is the third consecutive year that the NG postcode area has appeared in the top 10 list. The postcode area has appeared in the top 10 eight times since Royal Mail began reporting postcode specific figures in 2013.
In joint ninth place are the BN (Brighton) and OX (Oxford) postcode areas both with 34 dog attacks.
For the BN postcode, this sees an 8% decrease in attacks this year, with incidents down slightly on 37 reported in 2022. This is the seventh consecutive year that the BN postcode has placed in the top 10 list for dog attacks on postal staff. The postcode area placed first in the top 10 for attacks in 2021.
For the OX (Oxford) postcode area this figure is a 3% decrease on last year’s figure of 35. The postcode area features in the top 10 for the second year running, having never featured in the top 10 since Royal Mail began reporting area specific figures in 2013.
Lizz Lloyd, Health & Safety Director, Royal Mail, said: “We are concerned to see attacks on our staff have increased this year.
“We know the number of attacks rises during the school holidays and in the summer months when parents and children are at home and dogs are sometimes allowed unsupervised in the garden or out onto the streets without restraints. So, while we want our customers to enjoy being outside with their pets, we also want to ask them to consider the danger unsupervised dogs pose to our colleagues.”
Dave Joyce, National Health & Safety Officer, Communication Workers’ Union, said: “The key objective of Dog Awareness Week is primarily to remind the public to be aware of their legal and moral responsibilities to control their dogs and prevent dog attacks on postal workers who are providing them with a great public service.
“The public need to be aware that if their dog attacks a postal worker, they can be prosecuted either by the police, local authority or by Royal Mail via a private prosecution.”
Kimberley Link, 50, had been a postwoman for two years and was based in Eltham, London. She tells her story: “I was aware there was a dog at the property as access to the front door was at the side of the house, so I would often see the dog at the back of the house in the garden. Whenever I was delivering mail, it would regularly throw itself at the garden gate to the point where it actually broke the middle panel of the wooden gate.
“The attack happened in July 2022, and I remember it was a very hot day. I was delivering a parcel and asked the customer where the dog was, she told me that it was in the garden. The dog may have been in the back garden, but she has also left the door to the property open, and the dog suddenly appeared behind her. When she realised the dog was there, she told me, ‘He’s alright, he’s fine’, but the dog was already trying to get past her. She put her leg to one side to try and block him, but she couldn't as he was a big dog. At that point I realised he was loose and turned to get away, but he jumped up at me from behind and clamped onto my left elbow. What happened next is still quite vague as it happened very quickly. I can remember the dog pulling me to the floor then letting go of my elbow and then trying to bite into the back of my neck. I had my hair in a long ponytail and a baseball cap on, so that stopped it from getting a grip on the back of my neck.
“The attack then stopped, I don't know whether the customer managed to get hold of the dog and pulled him off me, but one of her neighbours appeared as she had heard me screaming. The neighbour took me into her house and called the ambulance. It felt as though it took forever to arrive. At the first hospital I went to I was taken straight in for an x-ray and they found that the dog’s tooth was still in my elbow. I was transferred on the same day to another hospital as I needed a plastic surgeon. I was taken into theatre the following morning to remove the dog’s tooth and I had another operation the following day with the plastic surgeon to try and repair the nerve damage. I then had a third operation for a skin graft, that took skin from my thigh for my elbow. I was in hospital for a week and then back and forth as I had to have the dressings changed, the wound drained and physiotherapy.
“I've now got bad scarring on my elbow and a large patch where I have no feeling or sensation due to the skin graft. I've also got permanent nerve damage to my hand so I can't grip my hand properly. I was off work for six months. When I returned there was a management position available so I decided to take it - I couldn’t have faced going back on that round.
“My message to any customer who owns a dog it would be to never assume that their dog is going to be alright when strangers come to the door. Dogs are defensive of their home, so, if possible, put them in another room before opening the door to the postie because most dogs will try and push their way past their owner to the door.”
The police prosecuted the dog owner, who received a 12-month community order of 100 hours unpaid work; a £1,200.00 compensation to be paid to the victim; and a destruction order was issued for the dog - as the attack was deemed as ‘high harm’, involving life changing injury and requiring extensive surgery.
Royal Mail continues to push for changes in the law to reflect the severity of these attacks as a further form of protection for its people. Following changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act in England and Wales that came into force in May 2014, Royal Mail has carried out over 30 private prosecutions against dog owners. This has punished offenders and further raised awareness. It is hoped that these actions will prevent further attacks by forcing owners to put in place proposer control measures to ensure a dog does not attack again.
We have also successfully launched two actions in the High Court that settled the law in relation to the criminal liability of dog owners when postal workers have their fingers bitten while posting items through a letterbox. These cases clarified the law in regard to whether fingers inserted through a letter box amounted to a trespass and thus gave the householder a potential defence. The Court held that provided it was for the purpose of posting mail, no trespass was committed. In summing up the judge mentioned that a cage being fitted would go some way to preventing some of the terrible injuries suffered by our colleagues.
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