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 per 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 postal workers suffering dog attacks, closely followed by Belfast with 50 and Tunbridge Wells with 44.
There were 37 dog attacks on Royal Mail delivery staff in each of the BN (Brighton), NG (Nottingham) and SA (Swansea) postcode areas, while 35 each took place in the NE (Newcastle) and OX (Oxford) postcode areas.
A total of 34 were recorded in the PO (Portsmouth) postcode area, while the EX (Exeter) postcode area had 32 reports.
Most dog attacks, 654 (39%), took place at the front door, figures show.
Another 498 (30%) dog attacks took place in the yard, driveway, or yard, while 134 (8%) took place on the street or in the path.
A total of 387 workers also sustained injuries from mailboxes, accounting for 23% of the attacks.
What did postal workers say?
Julie Mundy, from Nantwich, Cheshire, spent five days in hospital, three months out of work and suffering from post-traumatic stress following her ordeal in 2019.
The postwoman, 19, said a customer tried to restrain the dog but it escaped and jumped at her, causing her to stumble backwards and fall to the ground, breaking her hip.
She said: “By that point the dog was on me but I couldn’t move – but I didn’t realize at that point that I had broken my hip. The customer came and dragged the dog from me and another neighbor from across the street came over to help.
“My arm was bleeding where the dog bit me because I tried to cover my face. The neighbor across the street cleaned me up, bandaged my arm and called an ambulance. I had to stay on the ground in the garden as I couldn’t walk.”
She added: “After the attack, I suffered from post-traumatic stress. As soon as I hear a dog barking, I freeze. It never bothered me that much before, but I’m not as confident as I used to be.”
Tim Murray, a Plymouth-based Parcelforce Worldwide delivery driver, was terrified of his own dog after he was 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, trying to defend myself with my steel-tipped 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 started avoiding him for fear he might jump up or nibble on me. He would try to snuggle up to me, bring me his toys and not leave my side. It has taken me over a year to enjoy the sight of another dog.
“I had an operation on my hand tendon and was in the hospital for several days. I was told not to work for a week and only do light duties for six weeks.”
Attacks on letterboxes were the subject of a 2020 High Court ruling, allowing dog owners to be prosecuted if their pets have free access to the letterbox and cause injury, whether the owner is home or not.
Calls for tightening of dog control laws
The total number of attacks decreased by 1% compared to 2020/2021. This is the second year in a row that Royal Mail has reported a decrease in dog attacks on its employees.
The year 2020/2021 saw a 31% drop, believed to be due to contactless deliveries during the pandemic.
However, postal workers reverted to pre-pandemic delivery methods after collecting the 2021/2022 data.
Dave Joyce, National Health & Safety Officer, Communication Workers’ Union, said: “Dog attacks remain a major safety concern and concern for postmen and women across the UK and the scale of the problem should not be underestimated.
“I have written to Defra Foreign Secretary George Eustice asking for a meeting to discuss what more the government and police can do to tighten dog control laws – that is my concern.”
The figures will be released as Royal Mail launches Dog Awareness Week to promote dog safety.
From Monday, July 4th to Friday, July 8th, 2021, a special dog week stamp will be applied to all postmarked items.