The classic image of the dog chasing the postie can invoke whimsical and often humorous thoughts. It harks back to the days of the Beano or Dandy where the likes of Dennis the Menace’s dog, Gnasher would regularly torment visitors. These days, we’re more likely to laugh at videos on YouTube of Westies or Jack Russells tearing their way through the mail as it’s delivered.
However, with a rise in hospital admissions from dog attacks, often causing permanent disabling injuries, it’s no laughing matter.
According to official statistics, there has been a 76% rise in admissions over the past ten years in England. Last year alone, this equated to a staggering 7,227 incidents.
Lone working outreach nurses and postmen/women visiting people’s homes are prone to these attacks. Dave Joyce of the Communication Workers Union said: “Over 15,000 postal workers have been attacked by dogs over the last five years for simply doing their jobs.”
MPs also expressed their concern over dog attacks. Survey results revealed that politicians have faced similar assaults when canvassing or delivering leaflets; in fact, just over half of the respondents revealed that they had been involved in such an incident.
In order to help prevent attacks, changes to the law have been introduced. Police, Council Officials and Social Housing Landlords now have the authority to issue community protection notices where animals are seen to be a nuisance or out of control. Animal Welfare Minister Lord de Mauley said in May last year that the change would “give protection to those who provide vital services in the community- postal workers, nurses, utility workers.”
Although changes in the law have resulted in a rise in successful prosecutions, Shaun Davis of the Royal Mail expresses his concerns on the growing number of attacks: “eight postmen and women are still attacked every day.”
In an effort to prevent serious harm from dog attacks, postal staff trialled a device which releases compressed air and makes a hissing sound, designed to scare off dogs. The device can be used instead of a previously tested peppermint spray which was used to disorientate dogs. Although both methods give staff a crucial advantage in the event of an attack, it does not allow the victim to seek help.
Any lone worker should be equipped with a form of back-up on their person, such a personal alarm. This allows them to easily call for help should a situation arise.