Dog owners could go to prison for five years if their pet attacks a postal worker, according to a new law.
They have been issued the ultimatum to keep their pets under control or face jail if a postal worker is attacked through the letterbox.
In a new High Court ruling, owners will be punished even if their dog nips a finger, reports Birmingham Live.
Owners could face punishment whether they are at home or not when any incident occurred. They risk being convicted of an offence contrary to the Dangerous Dogs Act – and face a maximum of up to five years in prison with the chance the pet could be destroyed.
The law change comes after a delivery worker lost the tip of a finger when a dog bit him as his hand pushed mail through a letterbox.
The dog was alone at the address at the time and had not injured anyone before.
The court ruled that the decision applies to postal workers or anyone lawfully visiting the premises, such as someone delivering a free newspaper or distributing leaflets.
If the dog injures that person, and the owner had allowed the dog to freely roam the house, the owner can be criminally liable.
The High Court ruling will effectively require dog owners to install letter box cages or otherwise keep dogs away from the front door to avoid prosecution if injury is caused to a person delivering to the house.
In the event of a conviction the court must order destruction of the dog, unless the owner proves it is no longer a danger to the public. The court also has power to disqualify persons from owning dogs and order unlimited compensation to the victim.
Since 2013, over 650 postal workers have been attacked while posting mail through the letterbox – some cases have resulted in the loss of fingertips and even amputation.
Angela Chapman, a postwoman of 13 years from Darlington, said: “I was delivering mail on a new route and posted a letter through a letterbox. I wasn’t aware of a dog at the property and it didn’t bark as I approached the door.
“My hand didn’t actually go through the letterbox when I posted the mail, but the dog instantly latched on to the letter and pulled my hand into the letterbox.
“It bit onto my three fingers and wouldn’t let go. The dog’s owner didn’t come to my aid, so I had to literally pull my hand out of the dog’s grip. I went into shock and some neighbours who had heard me screaming called an ambulance and I was taken to hospital.
“I suffered irreversible nerve damage to my ring finger and have been left with a permanent tingling in my finger that gets worse in the winter.
“Even as a dog owner, I am very wary of strange dogs now. The attack still affects me now, eight years on.
“Even if the smallest of dogs looks as though it is going to approach me, I start shaking and sweating. A simple letterbox gate would have prevented this happening to me.”