Keep your dog away from the letterbox or face up to five years in prison, is the message being delivered by the Royal Mail.
The High Court has ruled that dog owners who fail to take measures to stop their pets biting postal workers, whether the dog is inside or outside the home, could be guilty of an offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
The ruling follows a case brought by the Royal Mail after one of their workers had the tip of his finger bitten off while he was putting mail through a letterbox.
Dr Shaun Davis, Royal Mail Group global director of safety, health wellbeing and sustainability, said: “We know that the majority of dog owners are responsible and will do all they can to ensure their pet doesn’t harm anyone.
“However, even the most lovable dog can be a danger to postal staff. Dogs are territorial by nature and if they feel they need to protect their family, they can become unpredictable.”
The law will also cover anyone delivering newspapers or leaflets who are lawfully visiting the premises.
The judge said that owners could become criminally liable if their dogs are allowed free roam of the house and injure someone posting mail etc through the letterbox.
Katrina Elsey, personal injury lawyer advises: “I have dealt with some really nasty dog bite injury cases over the years. Even if you don’t consider your dog a threat because of its placid nature, there is still potential for it to cause injury if it becomes startled for example. It really is not worth taking the risk.
“If you haven’t got a cage at the back of your letterbox or can’t have one fitted, you must take steps to keep the dog away from the letterbox, particularly when you are not home. Simply using a dog gate or child gate or closing the hall door could be all it takes to avoid the risk of prosecution.
“Installing a letter box cage is a cheap and effective way to ensure the safety of lawful visitors to your premises. Bear in mind, if you are convicted, there is also the prospect that the dog may have to be destroyed and you could be disqualified from keeping a dog in the future. On top of that, you could also face a large compensation bill. Whilst the majority of dog owners are responsible, I urge all dog owners to take steps to keep lawful visitors to their premises safe.”