AUSTIN (KXAN) — On what would have been actress Betty White’s 100th birthday, people across Central Texas are thanking her for being a friend — one animal adoption or shelter donation at a time.
White, the beloved television icon whose career highlights included “The Golden Girls” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” died at age 99 on Dec. 31, less than three weeks before her 100th birthday. On Monday, fans around the world set out to honor her legacy as a staunch animal advocate with the #BettyWhiteChallenge.
The #BettyWhiteChallenge calls on supporters of White’s career and legacy to donate to local animal shelters and charities on her birthday. While it’s unknown who individually spurred the idea, the hashtag quickly gained traction online in the days following her death, drawing support from Hollywood actors such as Mark Hamill and George Takei.
In Central Texas, animal shelters and organizations commemorated White’s memory with celebrations of their own. The Austin Humane Society will host a pet adoption and fundraising drive from 2-5 p.m. Monday at The Domain — and while they might not yet be familiar faces, you may recognize the names of a few of the honorary guests.
Texas Humane Heroes, a Leander-based animal nonprofit, extended its gratitude to White with the naming of one of the shelter’s latest residents, found on the streets of a rural Texas town.
“Betty White was truly a legendary and inspirational woman who dedicated much of her life to animals and animal rescues,” Texas Humane Heroes wrote in a Facebook post. “She demonstrated a lifelong commitment to animals, and today, January 17th would have been her 100th birthday. So we wanted to honor her memory by naming this pup Betty White!”
Suzie Chase, Austin Pets Alive! spokesperson, said in a statement to KXAN White’s advocacy for unsheltered pets remains a driving force behind the organization’s rescue efforts.
“Betty White’s legacy as a passionate animal rights activist continues to impact people and pets around the world,” she said. “People who wish to honor Betty White’s iconic advocacy of homeless pets can be assured that every dollar donated to Austin Pets Alive! will be dedicated to the medical and behavioral needs of the dogs, puppies, cats and kittens in APA!’s care.”
The Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter also acknowledged the contributions donors were making in the wake of White’s passing, paying ode to the actress with the name of one of its newest rescues:
“Thanks to everyone who’s taken part in the #BettyWhiteChallenge,” shelter staff wrote. “To honor her legacy, we’ve named this charming, fluffy, super friendly little one Betty White! She’s exactly what you’d expect in a dog by that name.”
While the challenge’s timing convenes with White’s 100th birthday, it also comes amid significant staffing and funding challenges shelters have endured during the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 diagnoses and exposures among staff have impacted shelter service hours, and overflowing shelters have strained already limited resources for animals in need of care.
The state of Texas led with the highest number of animal intakes during 2021, according to Shelter Animals Count, a national nonprofit database on shelter animal intakes.
"This year, it’s been incoming animals all year round,” Kelsey Cler, AAC’s animal shelter programs manager, told KXAN in late December.