Plea to dog owners as election teams injured

Councillor Diana Stimely, of Norton, who had the top of a finger bitten off by a dog while delivering LibDem election material.
Councillor Diana Stimely, of Norton, who had the top of a finger bitten off by a dog while delivering LibDem election material.

THREE political campaigners found electioneering can be a painful experience – after having the ends of their fingers bitten off by dogs while posting leaflets through letter boxes.

Liberal Democrat councillor Diana Stimely, Sue Ross, wife of Lib Dem deputy leader Coun Colin Ross, and Michael Nicholson, husband of district Labour Party secretary Viv Nicholson, all needed surgery.

Sue Ross, with her injured finger after being attacked by a dog delivering election leaflets

Sue Ross, with her injured finger after being attacked by a dog delivering election leaflets

Coun Stimely was canvassing in School Road, Crookes, when she lost an index finger as far as the knuckle. Now she is suggesting dog owners take simple measures that could avoid other people who are posting leaflets, letters or other material suffering the same fate.

“Why was I bitten? Because I did not know there was a dog in the house,” she said. “If the dog had barked, which it didn’t, I would have been on my guard.”

Coun Stimeley, a dog lover who ‘dog sits’ for her grandson, says visitors could be warned by a notice on the gate or outside of the house with the message: ‘A dog lives here”.

Other options, she suggests, are the letter box being located on a wall, or a metal cage could be put around the letter box on the inside of the door.

She was delivered leaflets for the Lib Dems for today’s (Thursday’s) election in the Crookes ward for candidate Robert Frost.

“All I felt was the leaflet move, and I thought ‘There’s a dog’. It had completely taken off the end of my right index finger. I couldn’t believe it.

“I was leaning against a wall and a couple came up and said: ‘Are you alright?’ I said: ‘No, a dog has bitten my finger off.’ It was theirs. The woman was more distraught than I was. She was shouting to her husband to get an ambulance.”

Coun Stimely, who represents Ecclesall, went to hospital with the tip of the finger in ice in a tea towel but it could not be saved. She later had surgery to ensure a clean cut-off.

She does not know what type of dog it was. But she said: “If you have a dog, 99 times out of 100 it will run to the door and you will be aware of it and you are careful.

“I have delivered leaflets many, many times and sometimes the dog has got it! But there was no barking this time. I didn’t have an idea.”

The councillor, who lives in Hemsworth Road, Norton, said her suggestions were not costly and “will protect anyone who wants to deliver anything to the house” and “protect the family from the turmoil that will overshadow their lives if their dog attacks anyone.

“We must remember that a dog’s nature is to protect its territory which is the home it lives in and the family that loves and cares for it.”

Mrs Ross required surgery to reconstruct her finger after a dog bit her at a house off Causeway Head Road, Dore. She was delivering leaflets on behalf of her husband, who is seeking re-election in Dore and Totley.

The letter box had brushes, meaning the leaflet had to be pushed through that bit further.

“The dog didn’t make a sound but it must have been waiting,” said Coun Ross. “The first she knew about the dog was when it bit her.”

Her finger was bitten to the bone, there was a lot of blood and Mrs Ross was in shock. “But she was fairly stoical. Fortunately she was near her car and she was able to call me.”

The identity of the dog is unknown – “but it was a big one”.

Mrs Ross spent her 58th birthday in accident and emergency, with an operation this week to save the finger.

Labour campaigner Michael Nicholson, aged 82, was attacked at an address near Manor Top.

Wife Viv said he broke a ‘cardinal rule’, that you should not put your fingers through letter boxes. “The dog got two of his outer fingers. He found it hard to get his hand out of the letter box.”

Mr Nicholson first went to Manor Surgery, then to the minor injuries unit at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital before being transferred to the Northern General. He returned for an operation.

None of the attacks have been reported to police – with campaigners viewing attacks as an occupational hazard.

Mrs Nicholson said: “It’s our choice to put leaflets through letter boxes.”

lTop councillors retire, page 16.