Beloved actress and comedian Betty White died on December 31, 2022. A pioneer of early television, with a career spanning over eight decades, White was noted for her vast work in the entertainment industry and being one of the first women to work both in front of and behind the camera. She was the first woman to produce a sitcom (Life with Elizabeth) in the United States, which contributed to her being named honorary Mayor of Hollywood in 1955. White is often referred to as the “First Lady of Television”, a title used for a 2018 documentary detailing her life and career.

Betty White adores animals and does all she can to help them.

White was a pet enthusiast and animal welfare advocate, who worked with organizations including the Los Angeles Zoo Commission, The Morris Animal Foundation, African Wildlife Foundation, and Actors and Others for Animals. Her interest in animal welfare began in the early 1970s while she was producing and hosting the syndicated series The Pet Set, which spotlighted celebrities and their pets. As of 2009, White was the president emerita of the Morris Animal Foundation, where she served as a trustee of the organization beginning in 1971. She was a member of the board of directors of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association since 1974. Additionally, White served the association as a Zoo Commissioner for eight years.

According to the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden’s ZooScape member newsletter, White hosted “History on Film” from 2000 to 2002. White donated nearly $100,000 to the zoo in the month of April 2008 alone. White served as a judge at the 2011 American Humane Hero Dog Awards ceremony at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 1, 2011, in Los Angeles.

Betty White with dogs Bandy, Stormy, Danny at home c. 1954 via NBC

The American Veterinary Medical Association awarded White with its Humane Award in 1987 for her charitable work with animals. The City of Los Angeles further honored her for her philanthropic work with animals in 2006 with a bronze commemorative plaque near the Gorilla Exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo. The City of Los Angeles named her “Ambassador to the Animals” at the dedication ceremony.

Betty White spent many Saturday mornings walking throughout the L.A. Zoo with a zookeeper and an elephant named Gita before the public arrived. “She has a really great rapport with our keepers and she’s always aware of the animals’ needs,” Tom Jacobson, president of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, told TODAY. Tad Motoyama / Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association Credit: Tad Motoyama / Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association

White had such an affection for animals. It is rumored she at one time had 26 dogs, with a special love for Golden Retrievers. Her final dog was named Pontiac and was with her the final years of her life.

Betty White hugs Pontiac, a golden retriever she acquired from Guide Dogs for the Blind in 2005.Courtesy Betty White / Guide Dogs for the Blind Credit: Betty White / Guide Dogs for the Blind

“[My parents] were genuine animal nuts, and I am eternally grateful that they have passed much of that passion on to me,” she writes in her autobiography, “Betty and Friends,” according to The Today Show.

“During one of her stories, Rose describes a forbidden romance between two people, Gretchen and Buddy. When Mr. Bigbotter found them in a “most indelicate situation” in the front yard, he turned the hose on them. Dorothy  (Bea Arthur) finally catches on to the story, realizing that Gretchen and Buddy probably weren’t humans. Rose says, “They were dogs! Gretchen was a Dalmatian and Buddy was a Schnauzer. And Mr. Bigbotter wasn’t too happy when he ended up with a litter of Schnalmatians!”, she told Screenrant in Feb. 2021.

In honor of what would have been “America’s grandma’s” 100th birthday, many across the country have jumped at the opportunity to honor her with the #BettyWhiteChallenge. The Challenge calls for individuals to donate at least $5, in Betty White’s name, to their local animal shelter or rescue.

The Southern Maryland Chronicle will be highlighting our local shelters and rescues throughout the day.

Local Shelters:

Tri-County Animal Shelter

Humane Society of Charles County:

Rescue Angels of Southern Maryland

St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League

Linda L. Kelley Animal Shelter:

Local Rescues

Second Hope Rescue of Southern Maryland

Puppy Paws Rescue

Pets in Need in Southern Maryland

Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland (BRSM), Inc.


David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...

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