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Tucson pet shelters rake in more than $90k in Betty White tribute donations

Tucson-area animal shelters and rescue groups took in over $90,000 in mostly small donations made in honor of actress and animal activist Betty White. The TV star, who died Dec. 31, was known to care deeply for animals, and local groups said they’ve been seeing a heartwarming response to calls to celebrate what would have been her 100th birthday on Monday.

Fans of White started the #BettyWhiteChallenge on social media after her death and asked people to give $5 to their local animal shelters. White was an animal welfare advocate and worked with organizations such as the Los Angeles Zoo Commission, the Morris Animal Foundation and Actors and Others for Animal, and served on the board of American Humane, the first national humane organization in the United States.

The Humane Society of Southern Arizona was still collecting donations Wednesday made in honor of “The Golden Girls” housemate but reported over $50,000 in donations from more than 1,200 individual donors, “a massive amount of donations” that left them “blown away” and that “this is going to go a really, really long way for our pets,” spokeswoman Camille Hall said.

“We are a nonprofit so all the work that we do is funded by the contributions of people in our community,” Hall said. “We’re over the moon about it and also over the moon that so many people were touched by Betty’s legacy.”

The Friends of Pima Animal Care Center also had donations continue into the week but have counted $40,000 dollars in donations made in White’s honor. Gifts were “predominantly from individual donors and a lot of first-time donors,” their spokesperson said.

The Cherished Tails Senior Sanctuary, a Marana rescue group for senior dogs, received $7,900 in donations from the Betty White Challenge, which they said was more than they get in an average month and “will help a lot.”

The Pima Animal Care Center continuously deals with overcrowding in their shelter. They had 528 pets in search of foster or adoptive homes, and 1,163  pets in foster care in search of permanent homes as of Wednesday. In addition to more people willing to adopt and foster pets, the PACC also needs volunteers for tasks like dog walking, greeting and assisting visitors to the builder during weekdays and laundry help.

“Each day PACC opens with a handful of available kennels, and most days the shelter is taking in more pets than are getting out of the shelter,” Monica Dangler, director of Animal Services, said in early December when PACC needed to find immediate homes for 50 cats and dogs. TucsonSentinel.com reported at the time that a combination of factors had caused crowding, including healthy strays being brought directly to the shelter when found, an increase in calls to Pet Support, dogs that prefer to be solo in their kennels, and an influx of animals that are part of Animal Protection Services’ investigations.

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White was on TV for more than 60 years in shows like “Life With Elizabeth,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Hot In Cleveland.” Her best known role was as Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls,” which ran through the late 1980s and early '90s. Especially in the decades since, she was known for feisty, often profane comedy that challenged assumptions about how senior women should conduct themselves. She was widely adored, even receiving tribute from President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden after her death.

Donation link for Friends of PACC and PACC.

Donation link for Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

Donation link for Cherished Tails Senior Sanctuary.

Donation link for Hard Luck Hounds Az, a sister organization of the Tucson Sentinel.

Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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Pima Animal Care Center