Dog owners were warned last night to control their pets after a dog freed a window latch at a house in south Norfolk and attacked a postman.

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Ian Cleaves needed 17 stitches after a Staffordshire bull terrier mauled his right arm and elbow on July 21 during a routine mail delivery at Bressingham, near Diss.

The dog managed to knock a latch on a front-room window and chased Mr Cleaves to his van where it attacked him, injuring his arm’s nerve and tendons.

Joint-owner Donna Hilton, 29, of Pipers Piece, Common Road, appeared at Norwich Magistrates court yesterday (Wednesday). She said she did not know her seven-year-old dog had attacked Mr Cleaves.

Last night the Crown Prosecution Service and Norfolk Constabulary said dog attacks were not on the rise but owners needed to take responsibility.

Senior district crown prosecutor for CPS Norfolk, Frank Ferguson, said because there had been a number of serious cases involving vulnerable people, such as the elderly and children, there was more public interest.

He added: “The courts have plenty of power to deal with these types of cases, including imprisonment. There does not need to be a change in the law.

“Any reasonable dog owner who keeps their dog under control does not need to worry.”

A Norfolk police spokesman said action would be taken if a dog was a danger to the public. He added: “The dog section for Norfolk and Suffolk has three trained dog legislation officers, who are trained and qualified to identify and handle prohibited and dangerous dogs.”

Royal Mail said it had recently injected more than £100,000 on equipment and awareness campaign “Bite Back” to help reduce the risk of injury to their staff and the number of dog attacks had reduced during April 2011 to April 2012 - nationally there are around 4,000 dog attacks on Royal Mail staff per year.

During this period there were a total of 41 attacks in the NR postcode area, down by 25pc, 40 in the IP postcode area, down by 22pc and 81 in the PE postcode area, down by 9pc.

Royal Mail spokesman Morag Turnbull said: “Even just being threatened by an unrestrained pet is a frightening situation and we would appeal to owners to keep their pets under control, especially if they know their pets have a territorial nature.”

The court heard from Gary Mayle, prosecuting, that Mr Cleaves had been “frightened” of the dog and logged concerns with the Royal Mail about “previous difficulties”.

Ian Fisher, for Ms Hilton, said she was “very upset” by what had happened and had made the decision with her partner to put the family dog to sleep.

“It had not been envisioned this sequence of events would happen at all.”

Ms Hilton pleaded guilty and was given 150 hours’ community service and asked to pay £1,000 in compensation and £85 court fees.

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