Royal Mail launched its annual Dog Awareness Week today, with support from organisations and animal charities including Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Dogs Trust, Blue Cross, the Animal Welfare Trust and the National Dog Wardens Association.

The week, run in partnership with the Communication Workers Union (CWU), is the second organised by Royal Mail.

It highlights the need for responsible dog ownership as well as appealing to dog owners to keep animals under control when the post is delivered to more than 29 million addresses across the UK.

On average, nine postmen and women a day are attacked by dogs across the UK with more than 3,300 attacks taking place from April 2013 to April this year, some leading to a permanent disabling injury.

The number of attacks has risen by 8% nationally since 2012. The numbers rise during the school holidays and in the summer months when parents and children are at home and dogs are sometimes allowed unsupervised in the garden, or out on to the street without restraints.

Royal Mail chairman Donald Brydon said: “We know most dogs are not inherently dangerous; however, even the most placid animal can be prone to attack if it feels its territory is being threatened.

“Our first priority as an employer is to ensure the welfare and safety of our people who provide a valuable service to our customers. We appeal to owners to keep their pets under control, especially if they know their pets have a territorial nature. It can also be simple things that help – for example, just making sure the dog is kept inside when the postman calls.”

CWU health and safety officer Dave Joyce said it was worrying that the number of dog attacks had plateaued and raising awareness was key to making sure the number of attacks fell.

“It is so important for the safety of all postmen and women that dog owners ensure their animals are secure, particularly if opening the door to sign for a parcel,” he said.

“Owners must be aware it’s now a criminal offence if their dog attacks the postman or woman on private property.

“The change in the law now means there will be tougher penalties and prison sentences for irresponsible dog owners. We welcome this as, for too long, postal workers who offer a first-class service, have been subjected to reckless dog ownership – leaving them vulnerable at work and unprotected when a dog attack occurred.”

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home chief executive Claire Horton said it was supporting Dog Awareness Week by highlighting why it was so important for dog owners to know how to make sure their dog was not being a nuisance or posing any threat. 

“Battersea rehomes thousands of dogs every year to homes all across the UK and we’re keen to ensure owners know what they can do to avoid dog attacks – big or small – around their home or garden,” she said.

“Battersea is offering practical tips to dog owners on how to help their dog be more postman-friendly. Taking that little bit of time to train your dog can make all the difference.”

Royal Mail has already issued 90,000 special posting pegs to its postmen and women in the UK to help protect against animal bites. A national Dog Awareness Week postmark will be applied to all postmarked letters this week.

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