Story by Troy Landreville,

COMOX, B.C. – Off-leash dog walkers don’t have to worry in the Northeast Woods.

At least for now.

The Town of Comox has put up signs in the area, putting park users on notice that they may encounter dogs that are off leash.

Comox Mayor Russ Arnott confirmed that the town put up the signs.

“(The signs are) just to let people know that there may be dogs that are off-leash in that area and in the meantime staff is preparing a report for council and we’ll look at our options for something more permanent in the near future,” Arnott said.

There are currently no off-leash parks, fields or areas within the Town of Comox boundary.

Arnott said owners still need to keep control of their dogs “on or off the leash,” and that they’re responsible for picking up after their canine companions.

At a Town council meeting earlier this month, council unanimously approved Councillor Maureen Swift’s motion, asking staff to prepare a report that will outline possible locations and costs for creating a dog park and/or a leash optional park.

Arnott added that because the town is in a “transitional period” as council awaits the staff report on off-leash dog areas.

“Technically, you can still get a ticket for an issue if your dog is being aggressive or causing issues or if someone’s not picking up after their dog they can still get ticketed in that area,” he said.

Like any Town bylaw, Arnott said off-leash dogs bylaws are complaint driven.

“So a bylaw enforcement office would have to be advised,” he said, before reiterating, “we’re just trying to make the area a little easier for people to navigate for the time being and I think this is a good approach to let people know that they may encounter (off-leash dogs).”

Arnott said the area Northeast Woods has long been a popular spot for dog owners who have their pets on leash and off leash.

But in light of recent incidents involving an older couple involving dog owners in the community, Arnott said the signs were deemed necessary.

In recent weeks, the issue of off-leash dogs in Comox has been the subject of public debate after a Labrador puppy was allegedly bear-sprayed in the woods.

“From what I understand, it’s been quite harmonious over the years, and with the recent issues with the bear spray we felt that it was prudent to put those signs (up) that people may encounter the dogs off-leash,” Arnott noted.

“The rules have not changed, however, you may encounter off-leash dogs.”

The couple has been interviewed by the RCMP and a town bylaw officer.

As for the report, Arnott said it will likely come before council sometime around the end of January.

“It’ll be a while that we’ll keep this (signage) going like that,” Arnott said.