by Sarah Clark
Patty Lechten is the owner of Allandale Veterinary Hospital in Canada, and founder of the GAAP’s Canadian branch. Patty has been coming to Todos Santos to be a part of our annual campaign for five years! Patty explained that years ago, through a connection with Veterinarians Without Borders-Canada, a group at her clinic were working at a shelter in Jamaica and that the experience inspirited them to look for more service opportunities. This is how they found the Todos Santos project. In Patty’s words, “Once we came we loved it and became very attached.”
In Todos Santos, the GAAP Canada team and Allandale Veterinary Hospital (in partnership with Veterinarians International) provide sterilizations and vaccines to cats and dogs, education for children and the community in general about appropriate pet care, and scholarships to 4 teenagers living in the community -as well as financial support to their mothers- so they can continue in school. GAAP Canada and Allandale Veterinary Hospital staff and volunteers also enjoy bringing toys for the local children on each trip. The Todos Santos campaign is GAAP Canada’s largest project, but they also partner with Northern Spay and Neuter Program to provide veterinary services to indigenous communities in Northern Ontario.
Over the last five years Patty has seen many changes in the community of Todos Santos due, at least in part, to the annual campaign. “A lot of animals are in better condition than when we first started coming. We still see a lot of thin animals but that’s just because there’s not a lot of food in general, not because the people don’t take care of them. Last year we saw less cruelty, we didn’t see as many people hitting or kicking dogs, they seem to treat them better in general.”, she says.
Patty also reflected on her ideas for the future of the Todos Santos program: “It would be nice if this program could be in other villages as well, but I don’t think the need will ever stop here because there isn’t a veterinarian in Todos Santos. It would be nice to have more children in the sponsorship program, and to be able to support the teenagers so they can continue on to get a college education.”
Patty’s passion and dedication to the Todos Santos community over the years is inspiring, and she has built a fantastic team of staff and volunteers to support the program. In Patty’s words, “The nice thing about coming multiple years is that there are people that you’ve seen every year you’ve been here, you’ve developed relationships with them. I enjoy the relationships we have with the people and the fact that we do seem to be making a difference. Do we still have hundreds of dogs that still come every time? Yes, there will never stop being dogs to spay and neuter but at least the owners show up to spay and neuter them, and to be vaccinated. So it shows that there has been education about the value of what we do.”