Dogs v. Posties

Roy Mayall

There used to be a vicious old Boxer dog on my round. He lived at the end of a long drive with a gate. There was a post box outside where I used to leave the mail. Occasionally the owners forgot to close the gate and left the dog out. It would spot me as I was parking my bike, and begin padding in my direction, head down, growling, until it got close enough to launch itself at me.

There’s not much you can do at this point. I’d have my post bag at the ready to swing at the dog’s head. One smack in the jaw was usually enough. I’d complain to my manager, who would contact the owners, who would agree to keep the dog under control, which was fine until the next time it happened. There was a warning about the dog in the office, but that didn’t stop the owners forgetting to close the gate.

Dog attacks on postal workers increase significantly during the summer. Children, off school, run in and out of the house, leaving the door open. The Communications Workers Union estimates that there are around 5000 dog attacks on postal workers every year. Sometimes it’s little more than a nip or a scrape, but Keith Davies nearly lost an arm when he was attacked by two Rottweilers in Trumpington in 2008. The owner couldn’t be prosecuted because the attack took place on a private road. Most attacks on postal workers take place on private property as we have to enter people’s property to deliver the mail. The CWU launched a campaign in 2008 to change the law, but so far it hasn’t been successful.

Some dogs lie in wait behind the door to grab the mail as it comes through the letter box. Postal workers have lost fingers this way. A few months ago we were issued with a tool to deal with this problem. It’s like a child’s ruler, about six inches long and one inch across, made of red plastic, with a slot in the end. You put the letters in the slot, then shove the thing through the letter box.

The Royal Mail has been promoting it heavily for the past few weeks. Hardly a day goes by when we’re not called to the front of the office and given a warning about dogs behind doors and offered one of these tools. I’ve yet to see a single postie accept one. They’re clumsy and awkward to use. It takes a certain amount of concentrated manoeuvring to fit the letters into the slot, and then to wrangle the whole lot through the letter box. It is only really of any use if you happen to know there’s a dog on the other side of the door. But then, if you know there’s a dog on the other side of the door, there’s a much simpler solution: don’t stick your fingers through the letter box in the first place.


  • 31 August 2011 at 4:35pm
    Geoff Roberts says:
    You mean to say that the owner of two dangerous dogs could not be prosecuted after seriously injuring somebody? Didn't the union demand a prosecution? Didn't he try to get damages? Sounds very Victorian to me; 'private road' indeed- if he was attacked surely it doesn't matter what sort of road it was. The dogs were dangerous and he paid the price. Sounds dotty to me.

    • 5 September 2011 at 10:10am
      Roy Mayall says: @ Geoff Roberts
      Yes, that appears to be the case. You can read the union's report on the situation here:

  • 5 September 2011 at 3:17pm
    Enfrance says:
    Being the cynic that I am I would assume that the bit of plastic is just a sop so that if you do get nipped and make a complaint it can be said that RM would have given you the tool so its your fault.

    A mate of mine had a problem with a big dog and the owners were very good at not letting the dog out until they were pretty sure he had already delivered. However, one morning he was late and the dog appeared from behind a bush and started to run round my friend.

    As quick as a flash he remembered the latest gadget for keeping dogs at bay - remember them? - a sonic whistle. This is back in the 90's. The dog carried on circling but fortunately the owners spotted him and got him back indoors. My friend explained that he had the latest protection device but it didn't seem to work, perhaps the battery was dead? No, said the owner, it won't work 'cos the dog is stone deaf!

  • 5 September 2011 at 3:24pm
    Enfrance says:

    It does sound rediculous but in theory at least postmen are technically trespassers as they are uninvited on to a persons property. However, there is a duty of care for dog owners and that has been about the only way any recompense for injuries seems to work. But anyone with money who can afford a decent brief invariably wins in court.

    As a Union Rep I rarely managed to get any satisfaction with cases like this. The only thing that would bring a smile to my face was watching the local PED deliver the letter containing the warning from RM.