POLICE and Royal Mail bosses will hold crunch talks today in a bid to take action against negligent dog owners whose pets have been identified as a threat to postal workers.

The Chronicle can reveal that Athersley - having been blacklisted as one of the worst places in the country for the rate of attacks - has been the subject of a data-gathering project which saw 167 dogs identified on just one round.

Of those, 60 were deemed to be potentially dangerous to staff, and bosses are now working alongside local councillors and Berneslai Homes in order to protect delivery workers.

Andrew Kipling, from the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU), represents Royal Mail staff and told the Chronicle that the multi-agency approach signified just how much of a problem dog attacks on Barnsley posties has been.
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“We’re campaigning for more enforcement to be brought in as it’s vital that there’s early intervention,” he added.

“Before it’s been more reactive rather than proactive, but ultimately we’re just protecting our staff as they should not have to be running the risk of serious injury when they’re doing their job.

“There’s a diverse workforce in Barnsley, which includes two deaf people, so there’s a need to protect our most vulnerable staff as well.

“It’s a simple solution and although the majority of dog owners take positive action when they’re contacted, some do not. Delivery workers often take parcels which require a signature, so are often left with no choice but to knock on doors.

“By putting their dog in another room, the problem is easily solved.”

Barnsley is second to only Leicester for the number of reported incidents in the country and although Royal Mail says there has been an eight per cent decrease in attacks nationally, Barnsley’s figures have increased by 25 per cent in a year.

Postal worker Tara Boast, 29, told the Chronicle she has been attacked twice while out on her round and her 49-year-old mother Alison, who also works for Royal Mail, was bitten recently by an alsatian.

“It’s annoying as many people don’t seem to be willing to take responsibility,” Tara added.

“The first time I was attacked the owner and a group of other people were stood chatting in the garden and allowed me to walk in without any warning.

“The second time was horrendous and I had to call the police.

“I had a parcel to deliver and a girl answered the door, but three dogs ran out and one just kept biting.

“We should not have to be fearful when we’re at work, but it’s a serious issue and although it can be solved, the figures speak for themselves as they show how bad Barnsley has been.

“Athersley in particular is shocking for it.

“For example, one street alone has 20 dogs which are known to us.”

According to a crime meeting held in Athersley last week, police have committed to stepping up patrols on the worst-hit streets and if owners ignore warnings, Berneslai Homes could step in and take action against tenants - even potentially terminating tenancies.

Sgt Dave Baines added: “We’re aware of addresses and it’s imperative that this work, involving the police, Royal Mail and the council continues.

“We’ve knocked on doors and hopefully we’ll start seeing an improvement.

“There’s different legislation in place now so if you’re on someone’s land and are bitten by a dog, we can act accordingly.”

'Online shopping a factor'

The growth in online shopping has been identified as a potential factor in the rising numbers of attacks. 

Hundreds of homes across Barnsley have already received advisory letters relating to their dogs this year.  It is thought a move towards online shopping – which often requires a signature and a knock on the door – has led to a spike in incidents.

Simon Lally, delivery manager in Barnsley, said: “The growth in online shopping and signed-for deliveries is resulting in workers having to knock on doors and for a customer to open it, increasing the possibility of direct contact with dogs in their own home which they will naturally defend.

“Owners often claim their dogs won’t bite but they can’t ever be certain and although we don’t want to upset anyone, there has to be a sensible approach.

“Wall-mounted post boxes help, but owners can simply keep control of their dogs and out of contact with workers,” he added. “That way, any potential attack can be avoided. 

“If warning notices are ignored, we reserve the right to suspend mail, which means it has to be collected from Barnsley town centre’s office.”