Dog Attacks in the UK

The CWU Health, Safety & Environment Department fielded a lot of press and media enquiries following the two recent fatal Dog Attacks in Huddersfield, where a 52 years old man was attacked by a dog and killed whilst walking his own small dog and in Halstead, Essex where a 3 years old boy was killed by a dog belonging to his play friends parents whilst he and other children were visiting the address and playing together in the back yard. In both cases the owners have been arrested and charged with Dangerous Dogs Act Offences. It is interesting to note that in the case of the 3 years old boy, the owner would have been immune from prosecution had it not been for the successful CWU ‘Bite-Back’ campaign as the attack was on private land.

Points made to the Press and Media were as follows and are reproduced here for the information of Branches, Health and Safety Reps and Regional Health and Safety Forum.

The CWU represents the largest number of dog attack victims in the UK.

Around 4000 Postmen and Women are attacked by dogs every year and two have been nearly killed, whilst delivering the Mail. See attached examples of Postal Delivery Workers/CWU Members Dog Attack cases.

With the growing number of fatal attacks the CWU is concerned that it could be a Postal Worker next.

The CWU is the only organisation to collect statistical records on fatal dog attacks. 3 years old Dexter Neal was the latest death and is the UK’s 34th Dog Attack Death victim – 18 Children and 16 Adults (see attached detailed list) with all but 3 of them occurring since 2005 which indicates the steep rise over the last decade.

The two recent dog attack deaths in a week David Ellam, Huddersfield and Dexter Neal Halstead, Essex are further unnecessary tragic losses of life, and this is a big concern to the CWU. Our members deliver to those addresses and the question is how bad this needs to get before the UK public wake up to the out of control and growing menace of bad owners with dangerous out of control dogs blighting our country, maiming and killing people and young children across towns, urban and suburban areas alike. We now have the laws in place thanks to the Communication Workers Union’s 7-year ‘Bite-Back’ campaign – so the Police and Dog Wardens have the tools to deal with the matter but not the resources and priority attention to the issue.  The government needs to focus attention on tackling the problem of irresponsible, bad dog ownership now or these numbers will continue to climb and climb. Give the Police and Dog Wardens the resources they need is the CWU view.

Although our ‘Bite-Back’ campaign succeeded in changing and toughening up the law and sentences, this latest death, the UK’s 34th Dog Attack Death and the 31st since 2005, again highlights the danger posed by dogs and the need to tackle irresponsible ownership. Whilst a lot of talk centres on the breed of the animal, the problem is ‘on the other end of the lead’. How many more lives must be lost before more effective action through adequate resources and controls are put in place. We still get 4,000 attacks on CWU members every year and this must stop.  The breed and type of dog is secondary to the bad ownership problem. Many of these people shouldn’t have dogs at all.

The CWU successfully campaigned for changes to the UK’s dog control laws through its ‘Bite Back’ campaign, which was set up in 2008 following near-fatal attacks on two postal workers in Sheffield and Cambridge. CWU’s campaign has achieved new Dangerous Dogs Act Laws across the UK.

The CWU campaigned for seven years to get the law changes in Scotland, then Northern Ireland in 2011 and finally in England and Wales in 2014.  Over that period, 30,000 postmen and women and hundreds of telecom engineers were attacked by dogs, with many seriously injured.

Some 70 per cent of these attacks on Postal Workers take place on private property where irresponsible owners were previously immune from criminal prosecution. The changes extended the law to apply everywhere plus introduced extended police seizure powers and tougher sentences of up to 14 years in jail and unlimited fines. Recently an Essex Dog Owner was fined £8,800 when his dog bit off the finger tips of a Postwoman, signalling a big increase in Fine Levels following new Court Sentencing Guidance from the Sentencing Council. Since the new laws came into force there has been a significant increase in prosecutions but two years on we still see serious and fatal dog attacks.

More police dog legislation, officer and dog warden resources are needed and an injection of resources into public awareness campaigns, training and ownership controls need examining. We cannot allow this situation of dog attack deaths to continue at the present rate – it’s not acceptable in a civilised society.


  • 34 dog attack deaths have occurred (31 since 2005) – 16 adults and 18 children.
  • 95,000 postal workers are on the UK streets six days a week 52 weeks of the year delivering 60 Million items to 29 million addresses daily.
  • Online shopping is increasing the number of packages and parcels and ‘signed for’ deliveries. This is good for business but it’s also increasing the dog attack risks to postal delivery workers who are having to regularly knock on doors and customers are having to open the door to collect and sign for their items. This means more delivery staff are at risk of coming into direct contact with dogs if the owner hasn’t secured their animal before opening the door.
  • 4,000 dog attacks a year occur on Royal Mail Postal Workers/CWU members.
  • Approximately 1,000 minor dog attacks go unreported.
  • Summer holidays and the Christmas period see spikes in the number of dog attacks each year on Postal Workers. Summer because the kids are on holiday, the weather’s good and the families are out and about in the garden at home with windows/doors open and the dogs are outside; Christmas because the number of deliveries doubles.

Further Changes the CWU would like to see:-

  • Letter Box Cages fitted to the inside of doors to catch the post or outside post boxes can help reduce dog attacks through letterboxes which cause physical injury – 20 finger amputations occur a year for postal/delivery workers amongst other serious injuries from dog attacks.
  • A proper reporting process (Police and Dog Wardens)for dog attacks.
  • Update and consolidate all the dog control legislation.
  • Focus the Law on Dog Behaviour and not on Breed – Bad Irresponsible Ownership is the Issue.
  • Ensure better, consistent enforcement. More Police DLO and More Dog Wardens.
  • Provide extra resources to the Police for the training of more Dog Legislation Officers.
  • Compulsory third party liability dog insurance which would help provide proper compensation for victims of dog attacks from the owners of the dogs. (The Dogs Trust Membership Scheme provides £1M Third Party Liability Cover for under 40p per week, 20p for over 60’s – So it’s not expensive).
  • Reinstate the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) Payments for Dog Attack Victims (abolished by the Tory/Lib.Dem Coalition Government).
  • Dog Control Notices (DCNs) to be introduced to ensure early intervention with owners and their dogs help dog control by providing a simple preventative tool for Police and Local Authorities to serve on the owners of aggressive dogs in order to avoid serious incidents and attacks happening. The present Community Protection Notices (CPNs) are too complex, cumbersome, unspecific, slow and resource intensive.
  • DCNs once served should also contain the minimum requirements of Third Party Liability Insurance, Microchip, Muzzle & Lead in Public, Owner & Dog Training.
  • Those convicted of DDA Offences involving injury to face an automatic dog ownership ban of 10 years to life plus a Compensation Order in favour of the victim.
  • The Control of Dogs Order 1992 mandates that any dog in a public place must wear a collar & Tag with the name and address (including postcode) of its owner engraved or written on it. A telephone number is optional (but strongly advisable). An owner can be fined up to £5,000 if the dog is not wearing this identification – This Law should be enforced with Fixed Penalty Notices and Court Fines for repeat offenders.
  • The Government should run public awareness raising campaigns about the requirements of the Law.
  • The Government should back a coordinated and well-resourced national public education and training programme on responsible dog ownership and staying safe with dogs.
  • A blitz on microchipping compliance (which became compulsory in England, Wales and Scotland in April 2016.

It was already a requirement in Northern Ireland since 2012 where a dog also requires a licence).

Some overseas models to consider which have led to decreasing dog attack numbers:-

Canada –Dog ownership is based on five principles:

  • license and provide permanent identification for pets
  • spay or neuter pets
  • provide training, physical care, socialisation and medical attention for companion pets
  • do not allow pets to become a threat or nuisance in the community
  • procure your pet ethically and from a credible source.

Australia – Their dog ownership model includes:

  • identification and registration of all dogs
  • a national reporting system with mandatory reporting of all dog bite incidents to the national database
  • temperament testing to understand the risks and needs of individual animals, to help owners make more appropriate choices for their new pets and to guide breeders to improve the temperament of puppies
  • comprehensive education programmes for pet owners, dog breeders, all parents and children
  • enforcement of all dog management regulations/laws.

Dog attacks are preventable:-

Dog attacks are almost always preventable, if owners are responsible, keeping their animals under control and if initial signs of aggression are recognised and addressed immediately.

The growth in online shopping and signed for deliveries is resulting in Postal delivery workers having to knock on doors and for customers to open doors to collect and sign for the growing number of parcels whichincreases the possibility of direct contact with dogs in their own home or territory which they’ll naturally defend.

To help reduce the number of dog attacks, owners need to increase their awareness of animal behaviour, take responsibility, recognise when their pet is showing signs of territorial aggression and take effective control.

Although Christmas and school summer holidays see a spike in dog attacks, on Postal workers, it’s important owners are observant as to a dog’s behaviour at all times and take action to maintain control both on their private property and in public.

By working together with dog owners, vets, CWU members, government, police, local authorities, animal charities  – dogs and postal workers can live and work in harmony.

The 34 UK Dog Attack Deaths are made up of 18 Children and 16 Adults, occurring in the following years.

Year Deaths
1989 1
1990 0
1991 1
1992 0
1993 1
1994 0
1995 0
1996 0
1997 0
1998 0
1999 0
2000 0
2001 0
2002 0
2003 0
2004 0
2005 1
2006 1
2007 2
2008 1
2009 5
2010 2
2011 0
2012 3
2013 4
2014 6
2015 3
2016 3


UK Dog Attack Trends

Dog Attacks are up 76% in 10 years. Official figures for England show 7,227 admissions for dog attacks in past year, compared with 4,110 a decade ago, with under-10s most likely to be admitted.

Trends in Dog Attacks can be derived from details of Hospital admissions caused by being bitten or struck by a dog although this would be an underestimate as it does not include people who don’t go to hospital and are treated in GP Surgeries and Walk In Clinics etc. Dog Bites and the cost to the NHS/Tax Payer continue to rise in the UK despite the legislation. Long term we hope that the 2014 changes will start to reverse the trend if tougher enforcement is introduced and the Courts start using the full range of tougher penalties now available.

Cost to the UK of Dog Attacks and Bad Dog Owners

The RSPCA estimate that the cost of irresponsible dog ownership in the UK is £80.5 Million (2014). See attached RSPCA paper.

The recent two deaths have re-ignited the debate over whether enough is being done to tackle irresponsible owners and to protect the public. The CWU Health Safety & Environment Department will continue to strongly voice the Union’s view to the legislators and enforcers on the above.

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