Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance
1847. Debbie Matthews
Debbie Matthews, from London, has been a leading campaigner for a pet theft law ever since her own dogs were stolen in 2006, and has been instrumental in overseeing a Government pledge to reform the way pet theft is treated under the law.
After Debbie’s two Yorkshire Terriers went missing, she hoped they would be found quickly due to being microchipped, but learned that vets often do not check microchip details when pets are registered with a practice. She was fortunately reunited with her dogs, but the experience inspired her to look further into microchipping and pet theft, where she realised that under the law dogs are treated in the same way as stolen property, with thieves often only facing a £250 fine. Alongside her father, Sir Bruce Forsyth, she set up ‘Vets Get Scanning’ petition, campaigning for compulsory scanning at veterinary practices. She also helped establish ‘Stolen And Missing Pets Alliance (SAMPA)’ in 2014 to campaign for harsher penalties for pet theft and to help reunite missing microchipped pets with their families. Debbie’s campaigning has now led to the Government pledging to make pet theft a new criminal offence, meaning that dogs will no longer be treated the same as stolen property.
In a personal letter to Debbie, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“As a dog owner myself, I can only imagine the horror of having a family pet stolen. So I was inspired to learn of ‘SAMPA’ and the work you do to reunite lost and stolen dogs with their families. Let me also commend you on your campaign to get vets routinely scanning microchips. This is a fantastic idea to keep the nation’s pets safe.”
“I am extremely happy to receive this ‘Points of Light’ award. My campaigning started after my stolen dogs Widget and Gizmo were stolen in 2006. I was one of the lucky ones and got both my dogs back home but many people are left with no help from the law or microchips when they become victims of pet theft. Working with an amazing team on #PetTheftReform and #FernsLaw, we now have a new Pet Theft offence and Defra are looking at ways to make it compulsory for the veterinary profession to check microchip registration at pets first treatment.”
Lord Goldsmith, Minister for the Pacific and the International Environment, said:
“I am delighted that Debbie Matthews has been awarded the prestigious Points of Light Award by the Prime Minister for her campaigning work to change Pet Theft law and her continued work via SAMPA/Vets Get Scanning to protect domestic pets.
“Debbie has worked tirelessly over the last 16 years campaigning to change Pet Theft Law and improve microchip scanning practices across the United Kingdom. Debbie also uses her platform to help search and spread awareness of domestic pets that are missing/stolen. I am pleased to say the Government has pledged to reform the way pet theft is treated under the law, as well as making pet theft a new criminal offence. This award is extremely well deserved.”
Sally-Ann Hart, Debbie’s local MP for Hastings and Rye, said:
“Debbie is a fantastic constituent who has long championed animal rights through the #FernsLaw and #PetTheftReform campaigns. Her determination to change the law on pet theft and micro-chipping of dogs has been inspirational to me and so many people showing that hard work, belief in her cause and a desire to do good reaps reward.”
Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP added:
“I want to congratulate Debbie on her nomination for a Point of Light Award, which is very well deserved. I worked closely with Debbie and the Stolen and Messing Pets Alliance on a campaign for tougher action on pet thieves and her passion for protecting vulnerable animals was very evident. There is no question, but that Debbie’s work will have saved many pets from a miserable life in the hands of brutal thieves.
“I am delighted her hard work and dedication has been recognised in this way.”