For the better part of her life, Margaret Doucas had been devoted to animals. The Wellington lawyer first became active in the local SPCA when she was a five-year-old migrant from Greece, with limited English language skills; she found solace among the animals sheltered there and formed a life-long relationship with the centre and its cause.
It is no wonder, therefore that she would leave a large part of her fortune to the organisation, after her sudden demise, last year.
The late woman’s bequest consists of one million dollars, which has gone into paying off the outstanding loan borrowed to make up the shortfall of the $4 million needed to build the new animal centre in the old Fever Hospital in Mt Victoria, and another million in investments, which will ensure funding of the centre’s ongoing operations.
“At every level her contribution is unprecedented,” says long-time friend and Wellington SPCA board chairwoman Theresa Gattung. “Her contribution is unparalleled in scope, breadth and longevity.”
The Doucas came exactly a year to the day she died, resulting to the centre officially being renamed in her honour.
“The important thing for her was that the SPCA was in a good financial state, not that the centre was named after her or that there would be a big fuss made of what she did to achieve that”, said her husband, John Tizard, describing how the Wellington SPCA had always been dear to his wife’s heart and that she had planned to make it a beneficiary in the event of her death.
Despite her shortcomings as a migrant, Doucas manage to overcome any problems and excell at school, becoming one of the first women in New Zealand to hold both science and law degrees and to be a qualified lawyer and patent attorney.
Throughout her remarkable career she never ceased her involvement as a volunteer with the SPCA. She was a board member for more than 20 years and often offered pro-bono legal advice for the charity, the only one of its kind in New Zealand to prosecute animal abusers.