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Canadians donate thousands to animal-rescue organizations in honour of Betty White

Canadians donate thousands to animal-rescue organizations in honour of Betty White-Milenio Stadium-Canada
Betty White, who died on Dec. 31, was known for her love of animals as much as she was for her TV roles. (Submitted by Adam McCarron)

Animal rescue organizations across Canada have received thousands of dollars in honour of the late Betty White, the much-loved actor and animal-rights advocate.

Monday would have marked White’s 100th birthday, but she died on Dec. 31.

In her honour, a social media movement called the #BettyWhiteChallenge popped up encouraging people to donate to local animal shelters.

A spokesperson for the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says it has received more than $64,000 in donations over the past few days, most of which came in Monday as a result of the challenge.

The Vancouver Humane Society says it has received $1,290 in donations so far today, nearly 10 times what it raised on this day last year.

“We are so grateful to everyone participating in this initiative,” a spokesperson said. “We rely on donations to end animal suffering in all forms.”

“She would always have an animal in her hands when she was doing any kind of personal appearance,” Patterson said. “She made it very clear she was an animal supporter.”

Patterson said her society received $600 in donations within two hours of posting about the campaign online. As of about 10 a.m. PT Monday, its online fundraiser had received more than $1,200.

“In memory of [White’s] legacy, I think a lot of people are going to support this,” Patterson said.

The Ontario SPCA says it has received more than $50,000 in donations in honour of White since Friday. The Alberta SPCA said it took in around $4,000 while Manitoba’s Tails of Freedom Rescue Inc. said it raised $3,575.

It isn’t exactly clear who started the #BettyWhiteChallenge on social media shortly after White’s death. However it began, the idea — to donate $5 to a local animal rescue organization in White’s name on her birthday — quickly took off and drew support from celebrities like actors Mark Hamill and George Takei on Twitter.

“I’ve had many conversations with Betty about animal welfare, and I know she’s looking down from heaven and really smiling,” said Robin Ganzert, who leads American Humane, an animal welfare organization that White was involved with for more than 60 years.

“She’ll be smiling on her birthday,” she said. “And she’ll be smiling about the lives she’s changed.”

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