A pedigree boxer has cost her owners more than €35,000 in damages and legal costs.
Jess, the family pet of Amanda McMahon and her former partner, Darren Anderson, of Forest Hills, Rathcoole, Co Dublin, bit the hand of postman James Coll, the Circuit Civil Court heard yesterday.
Barrister Karen Nolan said Coll (50) of Royal Meadows, Kilcock, Co Kildare, was left with a two-inch-long scar on his right hand index finger which sometimes now became numb while driving or in frost.
She told Judge Jacqueline Linnane that Mr Coll was a relief postman on the Rathcoole route and had not been issued by An Post with any warnings of dangerous dogs on the route.
He had not been trained regarding mail drops through letterboxes at houses where there may be dangerous dogs.
Judge Linnane awarded Coll just under €22,000 in damages. She said he had fallen backwards after having been bitten and had struck his head on a concrete paving, also damaging one of his teeth.
She awarded Mr Coll's legal costs against Ms McMahon and Mr Anderson as well as the legal costs of An Post who were cleared of any liability for the incident. Costs are estimated at more than €13,000.
Coll told the court there was no back-flap or bristle draught excluder on the inside of the front door at the defendants' home with the result that his hand slipped through more easily.
The dog had snapped his finger as he pushed mail through into the hallway.
He told Matthew Jolly, counsel for Ms McMahon and Mr Anderson, that there had been no barking or growling from the hallway before he pushed the post into the letterbox.
Mr Coll also told Paul McKeon, counsel for An Post, he had never been given a training document warning postmen not to put their hands through letterboxes.
Forensic engineer Alan Conlan told Judge Linnane the lack of a backplate or draught excluder on a letter box would have presented a significant hazard to postmen. The letter box now had a wire cage attached.
Ms McMahon said Jess, a 30-inch-high pedigree boxer, was a family pet but also a very good guard dog.
"She was very vocal and would certainly let visitors know she was in the hallway," she said.
Mr Anderson was not called to give evidence.
Mick Byrne, the regular postman on the Rathcoole route, said he was familiar with the dog and nine times out of 10 she would have ripped the letters out of his hand as he "carefully pushed them through".
Judge Linnane said liability lay with Ms McMahon and Mr Anderson.
She awarded Mr Coll €21,933 damages and directed the couple pay his costs and that of An Post who, she said, had no case to answer.