Dozer came into the shelter as an emaciated stray. He has a sweet temperament and loves people and other dogs. PHOTO COURTESY OF SPCA OF HANCOCK COUNTY

Betty White Challenge benefits local SPCA

TRENTON — Betty White would have turned 100 on Jan. 17. Those looking to celebrate her birthday did something she most certainly would have approved of: They made a donation to their local animal shelter.

The Betty White Challenge was inspired by the late actress, who died on Dec. 31, 2021, just weeks shy of her centennial birthday. While she was perhaps best known for an acting career that spanned nearly seven decades, she was also an animal rights activist and devoted animal lover.

The challenge, first suggested by a user on the social media platform Twitter, took off and quickly and became a viral sensation. As the challenge gained momentum, animal rescues took note and donations started pouring in.

For the SPCA of Hancock County in Trenton, donations tied to the Betty White Challenge began to arrive at the nonprofit the day White died and continued through Monday. When all was said and done, cash donations totaled close to $6,000 and came from 100 individual donors, whose donations ranged from $5 to $500, said Cole Mastroserio, communications coordinator for the SPCA. The shelter also took in donations of pet food and supplies during that time.

Reports from around the country showed that people stepped up to support their local animal rescue organizations like they did for the Hancock County SPCA. “We are blown away by the support,” said Mastroserio, noting that community support is what keeps the organization afloat.

The donations collected through the challenge will be used to care for animals. Mastroserio said that winter is the most difficult time of the year for the organization because it typically sees a reduction in monetary and supply donations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also affected the traditional ways the nonprofit fundraises. Rather than in-person fundraisers and adoptions, the SPCA has had to move events online and limit the number of people who can be in its building at any one time.

Mastroserio estimates that it costs the organization about $1,000 a day to operate. She said the shelter is also seeing a rise in the surrender of animals with complicated, and expensive, medical needs that their owners cannot afford.

Additionally, the shelter will receive animals from other shelters when it has extra space.

The shelter can house a maximum of 90 cats and 12 dogs and is currently not full.

Mastroserio said the organization is thankful for the support from the Betty White Challenge. “It gives us encouragement as well as a safety net going forward.”

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