Dog attacks on postal workers surged to nearly 2,000 reported incidents last year, new figures reveal.
There were 1,916 dog attacks on postal workers logged during the year to March 31, 2023, the Royal Mail.
This is up 14% on the 1,673 reported dog attacks on Royal Mail staff the previous year.
Some “posties” suffered serious injuries, including one woman who needed surgery after she was savaged by a dog.
The postal service company has released the figures at the state of the annual ‘dog awareness week’, as bosses urge owners “take proper measures to ensure their pets pose no threat to postal workers through responsible dog ownership.”
The areas where postal workers suffer the worst dog attack risk
Staff in the Tunbridge Wells postcode area reported the most incidents during the year to 31 March 2023, with 65 workers suffering attacks, it said.
The Belfast and Sheffield postcode areas which, respectively, accounted for 56 and 50 reports, recorded the next highest rates.
Some 902 dog attacks, or 47%, took place at the front door, while a further 515, or 27%, happened in the garden, drive or yard and 118, or 6%, occurred in the street or road.
There were 381 injuries suffered through the letterbox, accounting for 20% of attacks on postal workers.
Letterbox attacks were the subject of a 2020 High Court ruling that stated dog owners, or those looking after a dog, can be prosecuted if their pets have free access to the letterbox and cause injury to any delivery workers, the Royal Mail noted.
Dog attacks on postal workers resulted in more than 3,014 days of absence last year.
Kimberley Link, 50, had been a postwoman for two years and was based in Eltham, south-east London, when she was mauled by a “big dog” last July.
She was off work for six months after the attack, which led to its owner being prosecuted and the animal being killed, the Royal Mail said.
While delivering mail, she said the dog “suddenly appeared” behind the owner, who was unable to block its exits from inside her home before it attacked her.
She said: “I realised he was loose and turned to get away, but he jumped up at me from behind and clamped onto my left elbow.
“I can remember the dog pulling me to the floor then letting go of my elbow and then trying to bite into the back of my neck.
“I had my hair in a long ponytail and a baseball cap on, so that stopped it from getting a grip on the back of my neck.
“The attack then stopped, I don’t know whether the customer managed to get hold of the dog and pulled him off me, but one of her neighbours appeared as she had heard me screaming.”
An ambulance rushed her to hospital, where an X-ray revealed “the dog’s tooth was still in (Ms Link’s) elbow”.
She was transferred to another hospital because she needed a plastic surgeon and was operated on once to remove the dog’s tooth, and then again “to try and repair the nerve damage”.
“I then had a third operation for a skin graft, that took skin from my thigh for my elbow,” she said.
She was in hospital for a week and required physiotherapy.
“I’ve now got bad scarring on my elbow and a large patch where I have no feeling or sensation due to the skin graft,” she added.
“I’ve also got permanent nerve damage to my hand so I can’t grip my hand properly.”
She was later offered a management position which she took as “couldn’t have faced going back on that round”.
“My message to any customer who owns a dog it would be to never assume that their dog is going to be all right when strangers come to the door,” she said.
“Dogs are defensive of their home, so, if possible, put them in another room before opening the door to the postie because most dogs will try and push their way past their owner to the door.”
The dog owner received a 12-month community order of 100 hours unpaid work and was ordered to pay £1,200 compensation to the victim, while a destruction order was issued for the dog, the Royal Mail said.
Lizz Lloyd, health and safety director, Royal Mail, said “we are concerned to see attacks on our staff have increased this year” and urged customers “to consider the danger unsupervised dogs pose to our colleagues.”