A NEW High Court ruling could see dog owners jailed for up to five years if their pet attacks a postal worker.

Since 2013, more than 650 postal workers have been attacked while posting through letterboxes, sometimes leading to the loss of fingertips and even amputation.

The Royal Mail has welcomed the ruling having brought the case to the High Court, saying it ensures postmen and women can get the protection they need.

Under the new ruling, dog owners who fail to take steps to prevent their dogs biting postal workers' fingers through the letter box can be convicted under the Dangerous Dogs Act, whether they were at home or not.

In the event of a conviction the court must order destruction of the dog – even if it has not attacked anyone before - unless the owner proves it is no longer a danger to the public.

Angela Chapman, a postwoman for 13 years, 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.

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"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. Also, the scar tissue means I can’t bend my fingers properly.

"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."

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.

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"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 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.

The Judge said that there will be a short time when someone exposes their fingers to a dog within the property.

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 or face prosecution if injury is caused to a person delivering to the house.