Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia animal shelters see surge in donations from Betty White Challenge

The death of actress and comedian Betty White led to a wave of donations to animal shelters around the world, including Nova Scotia.

SPCA Nova Scotia received more than $78K in donations from across the world

Betty White focused on animal rights and welfare in her charity work. She is shown here with her cat, T.K. (Submitted by Adam McCarron)

The "Betty White Challenge" spurred huge donations from across the world to Nova Scotia animal shelters on Monday.

The actress and comedian died on New Year's Eve at the age of 99. In the following weeks, a social media movement called the #BettyWhiteChallenge spread across social media platforms, encouraging people to donate $5 to a rescue or animal shelter in White's name on Jan. 17, the day that would have been her 100th birthday.

SPCA Nova Scotia received more than $78,000 in donations in White's name, some from as far away as Australia.

"We honestly just couldn't believe our eyes when we saw the donations flooding in ... it was truly hard to see behind the tears, but happy tears, of course," said Taylor Huestis, communications and development officer at the Nova Scotia SPCA.

"But it made sense to us because Betty was just an amazing, devoted animal activist."

Huestis said the donations will fund life-saving veterinary care for thousands of animals.

Miele, a dog surrendered to the SPCA in Cape Breton in 2021. (Nova Scotia SPCA)

"We often take animals with some of the most challenging medical issues, so it takes time and resources and one-on-one care to really help a pet heal emotionally and physically ... but that treatment is very expensive," said Huestis.

The SPCA does not receive any government funding and was robbed of food and supplies last month. Huestis said most of the organization's regular fundraisers have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so the money available for animal care has been stretched thin.

Huestis said the SPCA created a separate donations page for the Betty White Challenge so they could report back to White's family and her team with how much was raised in her memory.

White poses for a portrait in Los Angeles on June 9, 2010. White would have turned 100 on Monday, Jan. 17. (Matt Sayles/The Associated Press)

Huestis said it's a testament to White's character that so many people donated in her honour.

She said the next puppy or kitten born at one of the SPCA shelters in the province will be named after White.

"She spent her whole life just trying to bring happiness and joy to people ... and trying to make sure that animals felt loved and cared for," said Huestis.

Donations were 'astounding and incredible,' says shelter manager

The SHAID Tree Animal Shelter in Whynotts Settlement, N.S., also saw an unexpected surge in support on Monday, resulting in more than $11,000 in donations. 

"It has been astounding and incredible, to say the very least," Kelly Inglis, the shelter's manager, told CBC's Information Morning. "On the 17th, everything went crazy ... it was nonstop phone calls, emails, dropins."

Inglis said the donations will help give veterinary care to around 100 animals.

Since the pandemic, the shelter has seen a huge increase in animals needing care, so the funds are sorely needed.

Inglis said in a normal year, around 250 to 300 cats are brought in, but that jumped to over 500 last year.

With files from CBC's Information Morning