Serious dog attacks on postal workers in the UK in the past year "could easily have ended in fatalities", a union official has warned.
Some of the almost 2,500 dog attacks ended in serious and permanent injury, with one postwoman describing blood seeping through her trousers after she was bitten on the leg while doing her rounds.
The warning comes as the Royal Mail urges dog owners to control their pets, with new figures showing an increase in attacks on staff.
A total of 2,484 separate incidents were reported in 2018-19 – a 9% year-on-year rise – equating to nearly 50 attacks per week.
Tina O’Toole, a postwoman of three years from Warrington, needed hospital treatment, a skin flap graft, and physiotherapy after she was bitten.
She said: “Once I had delivered the mail I turned to leave the premises when I heard the dog barking and running up behind me. As I was attempting to get through the gate I felt pain to my right calf.
“I managed to get through the gate and close it behind me. I then went into shock and looked down at my leg to see the blood seeping through my trousers. Neighbours called the ambulance and I was rushed to hospital.
“I’d just ask customers, please don’t have your dog loose in the garden when we are on our rounds.”
The Royal Mail warned “even the most placid animal can be prone to attack if it feels it, or its territory, is being threatened”.
Dave Joyce of the Communication Workers Union said: “Dog-owning customers are failing in their responsibility to postal workers by simply securing their dogs before opening the door.
“Worryingly there were a number of very serious dog attacks on postal workers in both Royal Mail delivery and Parcelforce delivery over this past year, some of which could easily have ended in fatalities if it wasn’t for the intervention of the owners and good Samaritans
“Taking simple precautions can prevent the pain for everyone concerned.
“Put the dog away in a secure room before opening the door to collect and sign for deliveries.”
Royal Mail’s Dog Awareness Week runs from Monday until Saturday, with a special postmark applied to all stamped items during the week.