Alberta animal shelters receive influx of donations as tribute to TV icon Betty White

Calgary animal shelters have already received thousands of dollars in donations following a social media challenge created to honour late actor and comedian Betty White. 

Social media challenge asks people to donate to local animal shelters on Jan. 17

Betty White accepts the Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award during the 42nd annual Daytime Emmy Awards in April 2015. A social media movement is asking people to donate to animal shelters in White's name on Jan. 17, the day she would have turned 100. She died on Dec. 31. (Jesse Grant/Getty Images for NATAS)

Calgary animal shelters have already received thousands of dollars in donations following a social media challenge created to honour late actor and comedian Betty White.

The Betty White Challenge asks people to donate $5 to a local animal shelter on Jan. 17, what would have been the 100th birthday of the last surviving member of The Golden Girls sitcom.

White, who died on Dec. 31, famously loved animals and had a TV show in the 1970s dedicated to celebrities, their pets, ecology and wildlife preservation.

Deanna Thompson, executive director of the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society, says donations to the organization have already begun, more than a week out from the challenge's start date. Those donations will be able to help thousands of animals around the world.

"We've started to see some of these donations come in her honour ... we got a really cute note from someone," she said. "It's really heartwarming that people are making a small token of appreciation for her life and her legacy."

Thompson said the donations couldn't have come at a better time, as January and February are the organization's busiest months for animal intake — and they're also typically when donations drop to their lowest point.

Audra the cat rests at the Cochrane and Area Humane Society. The group says it has already received $3,600 in donations in White's name. (Submitted by Cochrane and Area Humane Society)

"Our shelter is full, so full of both dogs and cats, and we have a long wait list of animals that do need to come in. So every penny counts."

Carrie Fritz, executive director of the Calgary Humane Society, says the organization has already raised $6,000, more than a week ahead of White's birthday, while also celebrating its 100th year.

"Everybody loves Betty White, and they know her for her acting experience and for being a wonderful comedian. But a lot of people didn't know she was also an avid animal lover," Fritz said.

The Cochrane and Area Humane Society says it has already received $3,600 donations in White's name.

"To see all these smaller animal rescues benefit from that is amazing," said Lisa Kedian, the humane society's communications co-ordinator.

"Each year, the number of animals that come into our care increases, and so do the costs."

Kedian says people can help year-round by donating goods, dropping off pet food, and fostering or volunteering with animals.

With files from Terri Trembath