Beware the dog: Northern Ireland postmen are attacked the most across the UK
Northern Ireland has been named as the worst postcode area in the UK for dog attacks on postal staff.
The Royal Mail has revealed that 67 dog attacks against postal workers took place in Northern Ireland in 2016-17.
The statistics for Northern Ireland reveal dog attacks on postal workers were up by one fifth since the previous year - and over the last five years there have been 329 attacks.
Across the UK as a whole, there are seven dog attacks a day on postal staff, some causing permanent and disabling injuries.
The figures were released by the Royal Mail for this week's fifth annual Dog Awareness Week, which aims to raise awareness of dog attacks on postmen and women, and encourage responsible dog ownership.
The figures showed that 71% of attacks took place at the front door or in the front garden, and the number of dog attacks rose in the summer holidays when families were at home and dogs were more likely to be in the garden. Paul Sweeney, Royal Mail's general manager in Northern Ireland, said: "There have been 67 attacks on our postmen and women in Northern Ireland in the last year and over 2,470 across the UK.
"Some of these attacks have led to extremely serious and life changing injuries and this is unacceptable. While the number of dog attacks on postmen and women has fallen across the UK in the last year, the numbers are still far too high and have risen by 20% in Northern Ireland.
"Our postmen and women need to be able to deliver the service they provide to communities across the UK, without the risk of injury. This is why this campaign is so important.
"We need to keep raising awareness of this serious issue and ask all dog owners to keep their pets under control and be a responsible dog owner."
Royal Mail events to mark Dog Awareness Week include talks by staff to colleagues and the public about their own experiences of dog attacks.
Dog wardens will be visiting delivery offices in Ballymoney, Bangor, Lisburn, Londonderry and Newcastle for dog safety talks to staff and dog awareness posters will be in place in all Royal Mail enquiry offices, giving dog owners tips on how to help.
Royal Mail said most dogs are not inherently dangerous, but even the most placid animal can attack if it feels its territory is threatened.
Over the last five years there have been around 14,500 dog attacks on postmen and women across the UK.
Royal Mail said that while the number of attacks fell last year by 7% nationally to 2,471, it is still too high.
The company suggests ensuring your dog is out of the way, or keeping dogs in another room before answering the door and making sure children don't open the door, as dogs can push past them and attack.
Royal Mail suggests giving your dog some food or a toy to occupy them while your mail is being delivered, waiting 10 minutes after the mail has arrived to let the pet back into your hallway and considering installing a wire letter receptacle to protect post.
TV presenter and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home ambassador Paul O'Grady, who is backing the campaign, said: "Many people find it endearing when their dogs are protective of their owners and homes, but this can quickly escalate, no matter what breed or size of dog, resulting in dog bite incidents.
"As owners, it's our responsibility to train our pets to behave appropriately around strangers. Encourage good behaviour and spend time getting your pets familiar with people visiting the house."