Man bites dog. But only in self-defence

A MOST curious trial is going on in a London court at the moment, in which a postman is accused of biting a dog. The action is being brought under the little-used Domestic Animals Protection Act (1923) which was originally passed to stamp out cruelty in the RSPCA, but which is thought never to have been previously used against a postman.

Here is an extract from the fascinating proceedings.

Counsel: Now, Mr Watt, you are a postman?

Postman: I am.

Counsel: I believe that one of the hazards of a postman's life is canine assault.

Postman: It is.

Counsel: And what precautions can be taken against it?

Postman: Many things have been tried. Dogproof trousers, anti-dog spray, a stout stick, a whistle designed to repel dogs...

Counsel: Which one of these measures have you adopted?

Postman: None.

Counsel: So what do you do when faced with a hostile dog?

Postman: I bring my own dog into play.

Counsel: Ah! You own a dog of your own?

Postman: That is correct. Early in my career as a postman, after several episodes of being bitten by dogs, I decided to fight fire with fire, and to acquire my own fierce dog. Accordingly, I bought a bulldog which I took on my rounds with me. Whenever I entered a garden or property with a hostile dog on the premises, I would bring Profumo...

Counsel: Profumo?

Postman: Yes. That is the name of the bulldog.

Judge: Most unusual name, Mr Watt. Was it named after John Profumo?

Postman: Who, sir?

Judge: Never mind. Carry on.

Postman: If I were faced with a fierce dog, I would bring in Profumo and set him on the opposition. That always did the trick.

Counsel: So Profumo was never worsted in battle?

Postman: No, sir, though he once fought a close draw with a mastiff in Willesden, called Rab Butler.

Counsel: Now, tell us what happened on the morning of 17 July last year.

Postman: The day dawned bright and early, though clouds started to form before half past five. I had a boiled egg for breakfast, with two pieces of toast...

Counsel: I don't mean everything that happened on that morning. Just what is relevant to this case.

Postman: Ah. Well, at about 9.40am I entered the garden of 4 Macmillan Road, carrying a pile of letters. I did not take Profumo in with me, as I knew there to be no dog at No 4, and I tied Profumo up outside. What I did not know was that over the weekend the owners of No 4 had bought a spaniel. It was not trained, and attacked me. Without Profumo to aid me, I was panicked and without thinking I did what Profumo would have done.

Counsel: You sank your teeth in the spaniel?

Postman: Yes.

Counsel: Causing injuries which have produced a limp to this day?

Postman: No. I was not hurt at all.

Counsel: I am thinking of the dog.

Postman: That is what most people do. Nobody thinks of the poor postman.

Judge: I dread to ask this question, but what was the name of the spaniel?

Postman: I believe it was Cliveden, sir.

Judge: Good Lord. Carry on.

Counsel: Do you really think you were justified in attacking the dog?

Postman: I did not attack him. I defended myself. Those of you who have never been a postman do not realise under what constant threat we are. I have been attacked by cats, by birds, by barbed wire, by trees, by householders who were furious that the expected letter had not arrived, by householders who were furious that the expected bill HAD arrived... On one occasion I was even attacked by a female snake. Small wonder if occasionally we give way to our human nature and retaliate. Is a postman not also human? If you bite us, do we not bleed? (Huge applause from public gallery, which is crowded with postmen.)

Judge: I probably should not ask this, but was the snake called Christine?

Postman: No, sir.

Judge: Thank heaven for that.

Postman: It was called Mandy, sir.

The case continues.