Tougher laws on dangerous dogs have been welcomed by staff at Hemel Hempstead’s Royal Mail sorting centre, which has one of the worst rates for canine attacks on postmen and women.
The new rules, which came into effect yesterday, means pet owners that allow a dog to cause injury can now be punished by five years in prison.
The maximum prison sentence for allowing a dog to carry out a fatal attack on a person has increased to 14 years, from the previous two.
Hemel Hempstead and the HP postcode area is second only to Harrow in the local area for the rate of dog attacks on postmen and women – there were 19 from April 2012 to April 2013. Harrow had just two more incidents with a rate of 21.
In the same period nationwide, there were over 2,400 attacks on Royal Mail postmen and women, some leading to a permanent disabling injury.
Previously, legal protection over attacks by dogs did not extend ‘beyond the garden gate’, creating a particular issue for postmen and women who visit hundreds of private homes every day on their rounds.
Royal Mail’s group director of safety, health, wellbeing and sustainability Shaun Davis said: “I am delighted by the news that changes to the Dangerous Dog Act have now come in to force in England and Wales.
“Royal Mail has campaigned for changes to this important legislation and it will now ensure our postmen and women will be protected under law when they enter private property including a customer’s garden.
“The welfare and safety of our people is our first priority. We are only too aware of the life changing physical and psychological injuries that can be sustained from dog attacks. Nobody should have to endure this and our postmen and women should not be at increased risk of such attacks simply because of the job they do.
“With the new legal protections and with greater public awareness, I hope we can see a significant reduction in the number of incidents in future.”
Hemel Hempstead’s shocking dog attack figures prompted the giant mail centre on the town’s industrial estate – which covers the Home Counties North patch as well as delivering to addresses in the West Herts area – to introduce a scheme to drive down the number of dog attacks.
Delivery people based at the Maxted Road centre have suffered bites to the legs, stomach and chest and one lost the tip on his forefinger, which led to the organisation giving out ‘postal pegs’ like tongs to deliver mail through letterboxes where there’s a dog at home.