Menacing mutts leave their mark on hapless posties

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The Independent Online
Frank James, generally regarded as one of the most "bitten" postmen in Britain, has a guilty secret. For 36 years he railed against rampaging canines that attacked him on his delivery rounds in rural Staffordshire.

He would tell anyone prepared to listen that he endured an average of two dog bites a year. The small ones were the worst, he would say.

Alsatians were fine and you could see Rottweillers coming and scarper. Collies were pretty nasty, favouring a nip and run approach. But the real vicious blighters were those most favoured by Her Majesty the Queen. Corgis would bite your leg and refuse to let go.

Sometimes Mr James would lift his trousers and reveal some of his 25 battle scars. He continued his campaign against vicious quadrupeds and their unthinking owners when he became a full-time official of the Communication Workers' Union two years ago.

But yesterday at his union's annual conference in Blackpool, Mr James let the dog out of the bag, so to speak. Last Christmas, his wife Rosie opened the door to a postman and inadvertently allowed the family bitch out at the same time. The dog, a cross-bred collie, sank her teeth into the postman's right leg.

The confession yesterday coincided with new figures on "menacing mutts" released by the union which showed attacks were on the increase and cost the Royal Mail up to pounds 2m a year. Official figures showed that 5,891 postmen and women were bitten by dogs last year - one delivery worker is attacked every 15 minutes.

The Royal Mail, which advises its employees to "make friends" with dogs on their delivery routes, is in the habit of sending letters of protest to irresponsible pet owners. According to the union, however, there is a marked reluctance among staff to deliver them.

Several years ago the Post Office started issuing its staff with "dog dazers", which emit ultrasonic waves. The pocket-sized devices stun the dog for a few seconds, until the postman can make good his exit.

There were two problems with the stun guns, according to Mr James. Younger employees often used them on colleagues and some of the craftier canines developed strategies to evade them. He said: "If the dog got used to them, some of the bloody things would hide behind hedges and then rush out and bite you on the arse."