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March 15, 2012

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Dog attacks on mail workers to be investigated

Royal Mail has announced the launch of an independent inquiry into dog attacks on postal workers.

The inquiry, which will be led by former High Court judge Sir Gordon Langley, will consider the prevalence and consequence of attacks by dogs on postal workers in the UK and set out proposals on how to address such incidents.

It will look at existing relevant laws and regulations and the extent to which they are sufficient and enforced. Relevant measures taken by other employers in the UK, or elsewhere, to protect workers from dog attacks will also form part of the inquiry.

According to Royal Mail, more than 24,000 postmen and women have been attacked on their delivery rounds since 2006. It has spent more than £100,000 on awareness campaigns and equipment to help its employees reduce the risk of injury, including investing in 90,000 ‘posting pegs’ – a device that helps workers post letters without having to put their fingers in the letterbox.

Since April last year, 390 postal workers have taken time off sick as a result of dog attacks, costing the Royal Mail around £400,000 in lost working days. Between 3500 and 4000 attacks are reported annually, although the Communication Workers Union (CWU) estimates that the total number of incidents is more likely in the region of 6000.

Announcing the inquiry, Royal Mail Group chair Donald Brydon said: “It is an offence to decency that good people should suffer these attacks when carrying out their daily jobs and serving the public. I am delighted that Sir Gordon has agreed to carry out this inquiry.”

Royal Mail has been working with the CWU to promote its Bite Back campaign, which was set up in 2008 to raise awareness about responsible dog ownership and change the law in respect of dangerous dogs. A Royal Mail spokesperson told SHP: “We want it to be a criminal offence for dog owners not to control their dogs on private property, as this is where our postal workers operate.”

Welcoming the inquiry, CWU national health, safety and environment officer Dave Joyce said: “This is a very positive and welcomed development at a key moment and will definitely raise the profile of the issue and influence the public and political debate and strengthen the case for change, which is overwhelming and must not be further delayed.”

Echoing these sentiments, the union’s deputy general secretary, Dave Ward, added: “The CWU has been campaigning for a change in the law on dangerous dogs for a long time. We welcome this important inquiry and would also like to see the Government act now.”

In a House of Commons debate yesterday (14 March), James Paice MP, a minister for Defra, confirmed that the Government aims to announce a package of measures designed to address irresponsible dog owners by the end of March.

He said: “The issue of irresponsible dog ownership spans a number of areas, with the Police, courts, local authorities, dog re-homing centres, veterinary surgeons and charitable bodies, many of which are dog re-homing centres, all having an interest. It is therefore important to strike the right balance between penalising irresponsible dog owners and not placing unrealistic burdens on the majority of responsible dog owners.”

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