Royal Mail has announced there were 1,673 dog attacks reported on its staff last year, an average of 32 attacks every week across the UK, with some leading to permanent and disabling injuries.
The figures have been released at the start of the 10th Dog Awareness Week which runs from today to the 10th July and aims to encourage 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.
Sheffield was the city that had the most incidents reported during the year to 31 March 2022, with 51 postmen or women suffering dog attacks, closely followed by Belfast, with 50 attacks. Tunbridge Wells was in third place with 44 attacks on Royal Mail colleagues.
The total number of attacks represents a 1% drop during 2021/22. This is the second year running Royal Mail has reported a reduction in dog attacks on its staff (last year saw a 31% decline), thought again to be attributed by the move to contact free deliveries during the pandemic. The company’s pre-pandemic delivery methods were reinstated in April of this year, after the end of the reporting period.
As in previous years, the majority of dog attacks, 654 (39%), took place at the front door. A further 498 (30%) of dog attacks took place in the garden, driveway or yard. 134 (8%) of attacks took place in the street or road.
There were 387 injuries suffered through the letterbox – accounting for 23% 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. In May 2017, a Royal Mail postman lost the tip of his finger while delivering to a customer’s address. In October 2021 the dog owner was sentenced to a 12-month community order, 150 hours of unpaid work, £1000 in costs to Royal Mail, a victim surcharge of £85, and a suspended destruction order was placed on the dog.
Dog attacks on Royal Mail colleagues resulted in more than 1712 days of absence in 2021/22 with the longest period of absence being 238 days. 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.
For Royal Mail’s dedicated parcel routes, the handheld devices used by delivery drivers now have a feature that alerts the user that a dog is present at the property – this is shown by a dog symbol registered at the address. The alert system is being deployed across devices used by all Royal Mail posties over the coming months.
Philip Graham, Royal Mail Interim Director of Safety, Health, Wellbeing & Sustainability said:
“We are pleased to see a slight decrease in dog attacks on our team this past year. However, as we begin to return to pre-pandemic delivery procedures, we want to ask our customers to continue to be aware of where their pets are when the postman delivers their mail.
“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:
“Dog attacks remain a major safety hazard and concern for postmen and women across the UK and the scale of the problem shouldn’t be underestimated.
“I have written to the DEFRA Secretary of State George Eustice calling for a meeting to discuss what more the government and police can do to toughen up the dog control laws – such is my concern.
“The key objectives of Dog Awareness Week are to primarily remind the public to be aware of their legal and moral responsibilities to control their pets and prevent dog attacks on postal workers – and secondly is a message to our Postmen and Women to be vigilant, keep safe and take no risks.”
Julie Mundy, a postwoman for 19 years, tells her story:
A dog attack in 2019, left Julie Mundy off work for three months, and terrified if she heard so much as a bark on her delivery round.
“I was delivering a parcel to a customer. I had never seen a dog there because the owner had always kept it out of the way. On this occasion, somebody else came to the door for the parcel and brought the dog with them. Like many others, they tried to hold on to the dog while at the same time trying to accept their mail. This time the dog broke free and dived straight at me. I started back because I just wasn’t expecting it and I fell on the curb in the garden and broke my hip.
“By then the dog was on top of me but I couldn’t move – but I didn’t realise at that point I had broken my hip. The customer came and dragged the dog off me and another neighbour from across the road came over to help. My arm was bleeding where the dog had bitten me because I had been trying to cover my face. The neighbour from across the road cleaned me up and bandaged my arm and called an ambulance. I had to remain on the floor in the garden as I couldn’t walk.
“I spent five days in hospital. The pain was horrendous. I was subsequently off work for three months. The police decided not to prosecute the owner. Instead, Royal Mail took the owner to court. The dog’s owner received an 18-month suspended jail sentence.
“Following the attack, I have suffered from post-traumatic stress. As soon as I hear a barking dog, I freeze. It never used to bother me that much but I’m not as confident as I used to be.
“If I had to give our customers one piece of advice, it would be, please don’t bring your dogs to the door with you to accept your mail or parcels. People are becoming more aware that they can be prosecuted if their dog bites anyone visiting their property for work.”
Tim Murray, a Parcelforce Worldwide delivery driver tells his story:
A dog attack in 2020 left Tim Murray frightened of dogs – including his own. The driver based at a Parcelforce Worldwide depot recalls his long journey back to physical and mental health.
“I’d been aware of a dog at the property for a long time – but not of the breed or nature. I gave the owner a thumbs-up as I spotted him in a nearby field walking two dogs. I was delivering a parcel and, as he made his way to the gateway to collect it, one of the dogs paced up and down the fence line until he found a hole big enough to escape.
“It dawned on me that this dog wasn’t trained – and that it was about to attack. The owner called his name. But it was too late. The dog had already bitten my hand. I was in a world of pain and shock, attempting to defend myself with my steel-capped boots, trying to keep the dog at bay. But the damage was done.
“I was the owner of a playful puppy at the time. I began avoiding him in fear of him jumping up or nibbling me. He would try and cuddle into me, bring me his toys and not leave my side. It’s taken me over a year to enjoy the sight of another dog. I had an operation on the tendon in my hand and was in hospital for several days. I was told to avoid work for a week and only undertake light duties for six weeks.
“The dog owner was cautioned and ordered to keep his dog under control. However Royal Mail refuses to deliver to anyone whose dogs attacks their people. Now, the dog owner has to visit a delivery office to collect parcels – although he still receives letters in a postbox at the end of his driveway that posties access from the security of their van. I often drive past and see the dog in a window.”
Royal Mail says it 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.
They 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.
To help promote dog safety, a special Dog Awareness Week postmark will be applied to all stamped items from today, Monday 4 July to Friday 8 July 2021.
Please visit www.royalmail.com/dogawareness for hints and tips on dog safety.
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.
- Please ensure your dog is microchipped, wearing a collar and tag, and that your contact details on the tag and microchip are up to date.