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 to 10 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.
The Top 10 Postcode Areas For Royal Mail Dog Attacks:
The S (Sheffield) postcode area had the most incidents reported during the year, with 51 postmen or postwomen suffering dog attacks. This figure is down from 55 in 2020/21– a decrease of 7%. 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.
The BT (Belfast) postcode area placed second this year with 50 attacks. Despite a 35% drop in attacks last year, 2022 sees a 2% increase. The BT postcode area is another region that has appeared in every Top 10 list since Royal Mail began releasing figures on yearly attacks. It has topped the list for attacks four times.
The TN (Tunbridge Wells) postcode area, with 44 attacks on Royal Mail staff, is in third place. This represents a 13% increase in attacks from the previous year, which saw 39 dog attacks and placed the area in sixth place overall for attacks. The TN postcode area has featured in the Top 10 list for dog attacks for eight consecutive years.
The BN (Brighton), NG (Nottingham), and SA (Swansea) postcode areas are in joint fourth spot with 37 dog attacks on Royal Mail’s delivery staff. This is the sixth consecutive year that the BN postcode has placed in the top 10 list for dog attacks on postal staff.
This is the second consecutive year that the NG postcode area has appeared in the top 10. This is the first time the SA postcode area has featured in the top 10 list for dog attacks. The area has seen a three-fold increase in incidents compared to the 12 attacks it recorded last year.
In joint seventh spot are the NE (Newcastle) and OX (Oxford) postcode areas with 35 attacks. This is the first time since 2015/2016 that the NE postcode has appeared in the top 10 and the first time the OX postcode has appeared since Royal Mail began revealing dog attack figures in 2013.
The PO (Portsmouth) postcode area is in ninth place with 34 dog attacks. This is the fifth consecutive year the PO postcode are has featured in the top 10.
In 10th place is the EX (Exeter) postcode area with 32 reports of attacks on Royal Mail staff. The EX postcode area last appeared in the top 10 in 2019/2020, when it took fifth spot.
“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.”Philip Graham, Interim Director of Safety, Health, Wellbeing & Sustainability, Royal Mail.
“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.”Dave Joyce, National Health & Safety Officer, Communication Workers’ Union.
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 trespass and thus gave the householder a potential defense. 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 Monday 4 July to Friday 8 July 2021.
Please visit www.royalmail.com/dogawareness for hints and tips on dog safety.
Australia Post announced similar issues with dog attacks on postal workers earlier this year
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