Chief executive apologises after email 'joke' went to greyhound owner
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Chief executive apologises after email 'joke' went to greyhound owner

The chief executive of a Canberra organisation contracted to support people leaving the greyhound racing industry has apologised after he was accused of mocking an owner who asked for advice on rehoming his dogs.

The Barr government has a $100,000 contract with Woden Community Service to provide short-term financial aid, free counselling and opportunities to retrain in a different industry for people affected by the ACT's incoming ban on greyhound racing.

Greyhound racing will become illegal in Canberra on Monday.

Greyhound racing will become illegal in Canberra on Monday.

However, when an owner - using the pseudonym Peter Jones - reached out to the organisation, he received an unexpected response from chief executive Chris Redmond.

"I’m just wondering who [sic] qualifies for you to do rehoming, and if I drop my dogs off to you for rehoming at your office or somewhere else. If you could let me know the process it would be much appreciated," Mr Jones wrote.

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However Mr Redmond accidentally replied to Mr Jones instead of forwarding the email onto another member of staff.

"Kate. How do you like this email? Does Hayden have any contacts? Joking! The reporter took liberties with what I said!" Mr Redmond said, referring to a story in the Sunday Canberra Times.

Mr Redmond said he was not making fun of the owner and has since apologised unreservedly.

"My instinctive response to the request was about saying 'can we do this?'," Mr Redmond said.

"That's what I instinctively do, I am very service-oriented. I'm known for saying yes too quickly, I said 'joking' because it wouldn't be appropriate for someone to bring their dogs in to rehouse. It's more appropriate for us to find a rehousing organisation to link them into.

"The context was to say 'I'm stopping myself from my normal instinct of trying to help immediately'. It wasn't in any way about making a judgement about that person."

Mr Redmond followed up his email with an apology and urged Mr Jones to get in touch with their case manager Hayden Page.

"I am concerned that you may be suffering as a result of the ACT government’s decision to close the greyhound industry and urge you to get in touch with this service," Mr Redmond wrote.

However, the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club said the email exchange was "further evidence of the ignorant and patronising attitude" the ACT government had towards racing greyhound owners.

"Their real thoughts and attitude have now been exposed by a slip of the fingers on a computer keyboard," club spokesman Kel Watt said.

"Instead of receiving advice about employment, training and rehoming greyhounds, he received a highly insensitive message meant for another [staff] member. It mocked his query while also showing the taskforce’s ‘assistance’ outlined in the article is also a farce."

Mr Redmond said he was "very upset" his comments had caused greater hurt within the greyhound racing community.

"That was never my intention at all. We are here to support people in crisis in times of transition," Mr Redmond said.

Mr Redmond pointed to Woden Community Service's 49-year history and work supporting people displaced by the Mr Fluffy crisis and 2003 bushfires as proof the organisation was dedicated to helping Canberrans.

However, Mr Jones - whose real identity Fairfax Media has chosen to protect - said he felt he could not use Woden Community Service because of the "flippant remarks" and "obvious lack of compassion".

The greyhound racing club has also hit out at the ACT government over a new code governing racing greyhounds that will come into effect on Monday, the same day as the ban.

The code includes new standards racing greyhound breeders and owners must meet.

However, Mr Watt said the club was only given three days to comment on the draft code, and is yet to see the final version.

He said the process used by the ACT government stood in great contrast to that used by other governments, or in other cases locally.

"For example, the Victorian Greyhound Racing Industry Code included a formal five-plus month process [in the creation of their new welfare code]," Mr Watt said.

"The ACT government has allowed an eight-week public consultation process on proposed changes to P-plate regulations."

Mr Watt said even supporters of the feral peacock population in Narrabundah had been given more of a say on the birds' future than people affected by the closure of the greyhound racing industry.

An ACT government spokeswoman said "we do regret, in practice, that the [club] only had one week to respond to the draft code".

She said the timing was not intentional and the club would have been granted an extension if it had asked.

"Over a dozen stakeholders, including the [club], provided feedback during consultation on the code, which was carefully considered in the code’s development," she said.

"The ACT government will continue to monitor the implementation of the code, and the development of similar codes in other jurisdictions. Ongoing conversations with the industry will be part of this monitoring process."

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

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