A BENDIGO charity has been accused of underhanded tactics in its bid to find a permanent home for its operations.
Righteous Pups, which trains autism assistance dogs, has lobbied the City of Greater Bendigo to be able to use a Golden Square reserve, which has been home to the Bendigo Pony Club for the past 52 years.
However, pony club officials say the move is sneaky and uncharitable, and that a circulated petition calling for public support of the proposal fails to mention the reserve is already in use.
Pony Club Association of Victoria district commissioner Sue Foley said the 150 people involved in the Bendigo Pony Club had the utmost respect for Righteous Pups, but felt the club had been ignored as the charity seeks to secure a home of its own.
Righteous Pups was formed in 2003 to raise, socialise and train autism assistance dogs to work with children with autism spectrum disorders and their families.
“The one thing we have in common is that we both love animals,” Ms Foley said.
“I fully respect what they do, but they don’t seem to respect or recognise what we do.
“We’re not unsympathetic to the plight of Righteous Pups, but they just seem to have gone a very underhanded way about it.”
Ms Foley said Righteous Pups and the BPC had first discussed a proposal to share some of the reserve early last year.
She said that in September last year the BPC asked Righteous Pups to finalise its plans for a sharing arrangement, but as no plans were forthcoming, the BPC had not given further thought to the proposal until January this year.
Ms Foley said the BPC had organised a meeting with council to discuss use of the site, and arrived shocked to see Righteous Pups present, along with its plans to establish nine portable classrooms on the grounds.
“It was the first we’d heard about them wanting to take it further,” Ms Foley said.
“The bottom line for us was, we were going to lose the one thing that we need the most, which is space.
“Not to mention that safety is paramount, and dogs and horses just don’t mix.”
Ms Foley said the club had to cap its membership at 50 because they did not have enough space to sustain more riders.
Righteous Pups management was not available for comment yesterday.
The petition circulated by the group calls upon the City of Greater Bendigo to approve Righteous Pups Australia’s request to relocate to the Reserve at the corner of Breen Street, and Bellevue Avenue.
City of Greater Bendigo director of community wellbeing Barry Secombe said council had allocated significant resources to resolve the dispute, and that despite having operated on the site of about 2.6 hectares for more than half a century, the BPC did not hold a lease.
“While there’s no formal lease in place, by virtue of the fact the pony club has been there for a significant period of time they do have a right of tenure,” Mr Secombe said.
“We understand Righteous Pups are a very valued organisation in this community and they provide a very valuable service, and we don’t want them to leave Bendigo.
“At this point in time there’s certainly no decision that’s been made by council in terms of co-occupancy of that site.
“We’re still hopeful of negotiating a successful resolution.”
Mr Secombe said the petition presented by Righteous Pups to council included approximately 890 signatures.
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