Despite the drop, there were 33 dog attacks on postmen and postwomen every week over the last year
Royal Mail has announced a 31% drop in dog attacks on its postmen and postwomen during the 2020/21 year, driven largely by the move to contact free deliveries during the pandemic.
There were 1,690 dog attacks reported last year, compared to 2,445 in 2019/20. Despite the drop, the number of attacks on postal workers still remains too high. In the last year, 33 attacks took place every week across the UK, with some leading to permanent and disabling injuries.
During the pandemic Royal Mail was the first company to launch contact free delivery enabling its colleagues to deliver mail and parcels at the doorstep while adhering to social distancing measures. Under the revised process, colleagues place larger parcels on the doorstep, then step aside to a safe distance while the customer retrieves their item.
Renewed calls for dog owners to take more responsibility
As Royal Mail launches its ninth successive Dog Awareness Week, the company 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.
Despite the introduction of a new delivery process, the majority of dog attacks at 41% (690) still took place at the front door. A further 31% of dog attacks (520) took place in the garden, driveway or yard. Over 20% of attacks on postal workers (340) took place through the letterbox. And 8% of attacks (130) took place in the street or road.
Dog attacks on Royal Mail colleagues resulted in more than 900 days of absence in 2020/21 with the longest period of absence being 127 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.
Top 10 areas for dog attacks:
The BN (Brighton) postcode area had most incidents reported during the year, with 58 postmen or postwomen suffering dog attacks. This figure is up from 53 in 2019/20 – an increase of 9%. This is the fifth consecutive year that the BN postcode area has featured in the Top 10 list for dog attacks on Royal Mail’s postal workers.
The S postcode area (Sheffield) saw the second highest number of dog attacks with 55 Royal Mail postal staff attacked. This figure was down 13% on last year’s 63 incidents. The S postcode area has appeared in every one of the Top 10 list for dog attacks on Royal Mail postal workers since the inaugural Dog Awareness Week in 2014.
The BT postcode area (Belfast) placed third this year with 49 attacks. However, this figure is 35% down on last year’s total, that placed the area in the No.1 spot with 75 attacks. The BT postcode area is another region that has appeared in every Top 10 list since Royal Mail began releasing figures on yearly attacks.
The PO postcode area (Portsmouth), with 43 attacks on Royal Mail staff, is in fourth place. This represents a 32% drop in attacks from the previous year, that saw 73 dog attacks and placed the area in second place overall for attacks. The PO postcode area has featured in five out of the previous eight Top 10 lists for dog attacks.
The IP postcode area (Ipswich) is placed in fifth spot with 41 dog attacks on postmen or postwomen. This figure matches the number of attacks from the previous year. This is the second consecutive year that the IP postcode area has appeared in the Top 10 list for dog attacks.
Completing the Top 10 areas for dog attacks on Royal Mail postmen or postwomen in the last year are:
- TN (Tunbridge Wells) = 39 attacks
- GL (Gloucester) =35 attacks
- NG (Nottingham) = 33 attacks
- AB (Aberdeen) =31 attacks
- BS (Bristol) = 30 attacks
Julie Mundy, a postwoman for 19 years, based in Nantwich, Cheshire, tells her story:
A dog attack, in Nantwich, 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 from Plymouth, tells his story:
A dog attack in 2020, in Newton Abbott, Devon, left Tim Murray frightened of dogs – including his own. The driver based at Plymouth’s 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.
Dr Shaun Davis, Royal Mail Group Global Director of Safety, Health, Wellbeing & Sustainability said: “We are pleased to see such a significant decrease in dog attacks on our staff this past year. However, 33 dog attacks per week on postal workers is still alarmingly high. We are aware that a change in our delivery procedures was the main factor for the reduction in attacks this year. So, we are asking our customers – and our colleagues – not to become complacent as there is still much work to do in bringing the figure down even further. The safety of our people is of paramount importance as they work hard to keep the UK connected.”
Communication Workers Union, National Health and Safety Officer Dave Joyce said: “Dog attacks remain a major safety hazard and concern for postmen and postwomen across the UK and the scale of the problem shouldn’t be underestimated. 33,000 postmen and postwomen have been attacked by dogs in last decade.
“Over 80% at the front door, garden path or drive. 1000 dog bites through the letterbox in the last five years – many seriously injured and some losing fingers.
“On average, 33 postal workers are attacked every week last year alone. There has been a huge increase in dogs purchased by new owners, during the pandemic. This may add to postal workers’ problems as recent research tells us that many of these dogs haven’t been trained or socialised.
“The key objectives of Dog Awareness Week are firstly to remind the public to be aware of their legal and moral responsibilities to control their dogs and help prevent dog attacks on postal workers who have been heroes working through the pandemic as key workers. And secondly, a message to our postmen and postwomen to be vigilant, keep safe and take no risks.”
Royal Mail say they continue to push for changes in the law to reflect the severity of these attacks as a further form of protection for its people.
In a statement, they said: “Following changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act in England and Wales that came into force in May 2014, Royal Mail has carried out over 25 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 this area The law now forces dog owners to take positive steps – such as fixing a letterbox guard or keeping the dog away from the letterbox at all times – in order to prevent some of the terrible injuries suffered by our colleagues.”
(All images: Royal Mail)
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