Following on from Lily’s story and the importance of microchipping I wanted to talk about Sir Bruce Forsyth and his daughter Debbie Matthews and their ‘Vets Get Scanning’ campaign.
It all started when Debbie’s two dogs, Gizmo and Widget, were stolen from her car back in 2006. She had just popped into a busy supermarket and when she came out noticed two men standing by her car. She says: ‘As I had left the vented roof of the car open, I thought the dogs must be barking like mad, what a strange place to stand. As I got closer I could see there was no reflection from the driver’s window. I started to run towards the men and shouted: ‘Are my dogs OK?’ they replied: ‘What Dogs?’ It seemed like everything then went into slow motion – the shock and disbelief took over.”
The driver’s window was smashed in and there was no trace of Debbie’s beloved dogs.
Debbie informed the police and contacted the microchip company who were very helpful. She contacted local veterinary surgeries and dog wardens to notify them. Debbie continued: “I just kept thinking we will get them back, they are microchipped. This thought kept me going the first night.” After going online Debbie came across DOGLOST, a wonderful organisation run by volunteers. Photos and information about Gizmo and Widget were uploaded to the website and a poster was ready to go.
Jayne Hayes, founder of DOGLOST told her to return to where the theft had happened, to put up posters and talk to other dog owners.
Jayne was also the one who told Debbie that vets don’t scan. ‘What horror, how could this be? When a vet sells you the microchip system you are told that this will help you get your stolen or lost dog back if it is lost, but why don’t they follow-up on a scheme that they sell?’ asks Debbie.
The Daily Mirror interviewed Debbie whilst she was out postering. Then, when Natasha Kaplinsky read the article she telephoned Sir Bruce Forsyth and said that the BBC news would like to do a piece on the story, as dog theft (and is today, 2013) was one of the biggest growing crimes in the UK. Then GMTV also picked up the story and did a live interview.
As a result of the television appeal Debbie got both dogs back. It appeared they had been sold on to unsuspecting members of the public who were unaware of where they had come from. At this point, the ‘ Vets Get Scanning’ campaign was born.
Debbie goes on to say: ‘Without GMTV I wouldn’t have both dogs home. You can’t experience this crime and not feel that you want to do something to help all the other dog owners who have not been as fortunate as us. With your help we can make a difference. Just by asking your vet to scan all dogs at their practice and then for them to adopt a practice policy for all dogs to be routinely scanned on their first visit, you will be helping to get stolen microchipped dogs back home. It really is as simple as that!’
Debbie kindly agreed to a mini interview. If you have any of your own questions you’d like answered please visit the ‘Vets Get Scanning’ Facebook page.
How is the campaign going?
It is picking up momentum with every new story!! There seem to be more stories now than ever before. I think this is because of Facebook. People can connect so easily now. We were told all these stories at Crufts and Discover Dogs but there was no way to spread the word as we can now. Every story is slightly different. I never stop being amazed at how bad the microchipping system is!! Once the public can see pictures of owners and their dogs and read a story of a situation that we could so easily find ourselves in, as did your family and mine, it makes it more real.
Although we started 6 years ago with ‘Vets Get Scanning’ we now have many more issues to address:-
1) The whole microchipping system in place today is a farce and seriously needs over-hauling and completely updating.
2) Simple changes like a) making a microchip proof of ownership, b) the routine scanning of dogs and details of owners checked by vets, c) all Rescues and Councils routinely scanning every dog bought to them as strays and d) the Highway Agencies scanning all injured and deceased dogs in road traffic accidents. Data and time issues also need to be sorted out.
Isn’t it sad that we need to point out these changes when basically that is what is already expected?
Once a dog has been in the council’s care for more than 7 days they can effectively do what they want, including either selling it or putting it to sleep. There is as yet no statutory obligation to scan for microchips – they are dealing with collar & tag codes of practice and would try to contact by phone if a number is available or by putting a card through the door. There is the recent case of a dog called Sykes: he was microchipped, but was rehomed because the dog warden went to the wrong address. …….. what else can we add?!! This story illustrates another loophole in the regulations, and, it seems, the law is not on the side of the real owner, who is left without any help and of course, without Sykes!
How many people have signed the petition now?
We have nearly 23 thousand on paper and nearly 5,000 on the web page – 28,000 in all.
We have just started a new HM Government e-petition to call for compulsory scanning of microchips by all vets, rescues centres, council kennels and all animal welfare organisations. Please sign and share:- http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/50401
What’s the next step with petition?
If you get to 60,000 signatures, you get noticed but if you get to 100,000 names then the House of Commons is obliged to table a motion to discuss the issue.
How are vets responding to the campaign?
We have a vets’ survey on our web page. Unfortunately they seem quite oblivious about everything to do with microchips. I think they believe like us that the RCVS and BSAVA have sorted microchipping out to everyone’s satisfaction. We all assume everything is OK until something goes wrong. However, many vets’ practices do not know about the different databases which exist and they don’t know there is a ‘Code of Practice’. I have spent hours at dog shows with my husband, explaining to vets what they should be doing. RCVS and BSAVA have changed their attitude and new guidelines are in place for vets, which is really promising. With the introduction of compulsory microchipping in April 2016, all parties concerned are looking at ways to get the correct legislation in place. We want to make sure that Scanning is not left
I asked Debbie Matthews: ‘As we know you have a famous Dad, it’s fantastic that he has put his name to the ‘Vets Get Scanning’ Campaign. Does he have a lot of input into it?’
Debbie told me: ‘He is a great support and we talk over many of the stories. The reunification story of your Lily and that of Tinkerbell and Ruby, have astounded him. Like us all he can’t believe how bad the situation is with dog theft at an all time high and it seems to be getting worse’.
Thank you, Debbie, for answering my questions and thank you for all your help when my Lily was missing, and thank you on behalf of all the lost dog owners you continue to help – you’re a star! Mwah! x
Please sign the new ‘Vets Get Scanning’ petition http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/50401 and share far and wide x