Postal workers have been left with permanent and disabling injuries from dog attacks, with more than 1,600 incidents reported in the last year.
A total of 1,673 attacks were recorded, according to Royal Mail, which is an average of 32 incidents every week across the UK.
Where are most dog attacks reported?
Sheffield had the most incidents reported during the year to 31 March 2022, with 51 posties suffering dog attacks, closely followed by Belfast, with 50, and Tunbridge Wells with 44.
The BN (Brighton), NG (Nottingham), and SA (Swansea) postcode areas each saw 37 dog attacks on Royal Mail’s delivery staff, while the NE (Newcastle) and OX (Oxford) postcode areas saw 35 each.
A total of 34 were recorded in the PO (Portsmouth) postcode area, while the EX (Exeter) postcode had 32 reports.
The majority of dog attacks, 654 (39%), took place at the front door, figures show.
A further 498 (30%) dog attacks took place in the garden, driveway or yard, while 134 (8%) took place in the street or road.
A total of 387 workers also suffered injuries through letterboxes, accounting for 23% of attacks.
What have postal workers said?
Julie Mundy, based in Nantwich, Cheshire spent five days in the hospital, was off work for three months, and suffered from post-traumatic stress after her ordeal in 2019.
The postwoman, of 19 years, said a customer tried to hold the dog back but it got away and dove at her, causing her to stumble backwards and fall to the ground, breaking her hip.
She said: “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.”
She added: “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.”
Tim Murray, a Parcelforce Worldwide delivery driver from Plymouth, was left afraid of his own dog after being bitten on the hand when a customer’s pet escaped through a fence in 2020.
He said: “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.”
Letterbox attacks were the subject of a 2020 High Court ruling that stated dog owners can be prosecuted if their pets have free access to the letterbox and cause injury, whether the owner is at home or not.
Calls to tighten dog control laws
The total number of attacks dropped 1% from 2020/2021, making it the second year running Royal Mail has reported a reduction in dog attacks on its staff.
The year 2020/2021 saw a 31% decline which is thought to have been a result of contact-free deliveries during the pandemic.
However, postal workers reverted to pre-pandemic delivery methods after the data had been collected for 2021/2022.
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 (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 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 figures are published as Royal Mail launches Dog Awareness week to help promote dog safety.
A special Dog Awareness Week postmark will be applied to all stamped items from Monday, July 4 to Friday, July 8 2021.