More than 40 postmen and women were attacked by dogs while delivering mail in Sussex last year.

The 43 workers from Littlehampton to Pevensey were among the 3,300 victims across the country.

The number of those attacked between April 2013 and March this year has increased by eight per cent nationally, to an average of nine attacks a day.

But in Sussex the number of attacks are bucking the national trend, decreasing by 17 per cent on last year.

The figures have been released as part of Dog Awareness Week, run by the Royal Mail, to raise awareness of attacks on postmen and women, who are the largest group of dog attack victims in the UK.

Mark Cremer, 49, has worked for Royal Mail in Lancing for 12 and a half years and has been bitten six times.

The last incident was 18 months ago in Bristol Avenue, Lancing, when he was bitten on his finger as he was posting through the letter box.

Mr Cremer said: “It’s always been a source of humour, postmen being bitten by dogs.

“Owners actually laugh while you are being bitten.

“The basic attitude needs to change. It is not something to laugh at. People get seriously hurt.”

The injury is still affecting Mr Cremer, who may need minor surgery.

Other incidents include a postman in Polegate who was bitten by a dog as he walked away from a property he had just delivered to and a postman in Hove who injured his back after he fell over while trying to get away from a dog that was running towards him.

Chas Basra, Royal Mail’s delivery director for Brighton, said: “We know that most dogs are not inherently dangerous. However, even the most placid animal can be prone to attack if it feels that its territory is being threatened.

“We appeal to dog owners in the BN postcode area to keep their pets under control, especially if they know their pets have a territorial nature.”

Tougher penalties mean dog owners can now face a prison sentence of 14 years for a fatal attack and five years for allowing a dog to cause injury, an increase from two years previously.