A DOG chasing the postman may be a classic cartoon image – but for Dorset’s Royal Mail workers, it’s no laughing matter.
One postman had to take 25 days off work to recover from an incident, the Echo can reveal.
The most dangerous area for workers in north and west Dorset is the DT6 postcode area around Bridport, where five attacks took place last year.
Four postal workers were bitten and one received a fracture within that area.
The figures, which the Royal Mail has called ‘unacceptably high’, came to light as a result of a Freedom of Information request.
They do not include Bournemouth and Poole.
A spokesman said: “Since April 2011 there have been more than 5,500 attacks on Royal Mail postmen, some leading to permanent disabling injury.
“Attacks have resulted in the loss of 4,100 working days due to injuries.
“While the number of attacks has fallen by 24 per cent nationally since 2011, it still remains unacceptably high and we are committed to driving this down further.
“Every dog attack on one of our postmen is one dog attack too many.”
Dorset postman Peter England was attacked by a dog a few years ago, but did not sustain any serious injuries.
He said that thanks to the Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union working together, attacks are being taken more seriously – but the attitude of some dog owners is that it’s ‘amusing’.
He said: “I was attacked by a dog when I entered one particular property’s garden through the gate and went towards the door.
“Halfway there the dog came from the back of the property and attacked. I managed to get back onto the road but the dog continued to harass me.
“The owner was out but luckily a neighbour managed to cool it off. Some of the injuries postmen suffer are horrendous.
“Although I wasn’t badly affected, I have seen some people have their confidence shot. It can take a long time to get back into the swing of things.”
Mr England, who works out of the Blandford delivery centre, said there are steps dog owners can take to prevent attacks on postmen. He added: “The attitude of some people even now is that they find it amusing. It’s not a laughing matter and thankfully it’s now being taken seriously.
“I would say about 50 per cent of dog attacks on delivery men could be prevented if owners just put the dog into another room and closed the door.
“I have a dog myself and I make sure when I answer the door, it’s in another room with the door closed. I teach the children to do the same – the amount of attacks always goes up during holidays.”
Dave Joyce, national health and safety officer for the Communication Workers Union said: “It’s that long-ingrained joke of the dog chasing the postman. But the reality is far from funny.”
The government has now pledged to amend legislation so that postmen are protected when they enter private property.
This follows an independent inquiry, commissioned by the Royal Mail, into dog attacks on postal workers.
“It’s fantastic news for us – it’s been five long years of political campaigning.
“At the moment a dog owner can’t be prosecuted if their dog attacks someone on private property. But the problem is that as a postman, you have to go on to private property to do your job.
He said the number of dog attacks is thought to be much higher than records show as many workers do not report minor incidents.
The number of dog attacks per year in Dorset post code areas up to October 2013: