A POISONER is being sought after four dogs died following walks along a canal towpath.

Officers said the animals, including a Jack Russell and a chocolate labrador, died over a four day period after being exercised along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in Blackburn.

One line of inquiry is that food laced with poison had been placed on the towpath in retaliation to a growing problem with dog faeces being left by pet owners, police said.

The investigation is also looking into the posibility the poison could have been illegally placed along the one-mile stretch of the canal between Beechwood Bridge and the old disused railway bridge at Feniscowles because of a rodent problem.

Carol McNaboe, 64, of Livesey Branch Road, Blackburn believes her normally fit and healthy 13-year-old Jack Russell dog Trudy was killed by the poison.

The grandmother-of-two said: “My husband Pete takes the dogs out for a three-hour walk daily.

“Last week he decided to walk along the towpath so he could nip to the shop. When he came back Trudy kept being sick.

“We just thought she had eaten something she shouldn’t have and were planning to take her to the vet the next day.

“When we came down in the morning she was dead. It’s really heartbreaking as we have had Trudy since she was just five weeks old. She was a big part of our family.

“Whoever has done this needs to be caught.”

Representatives from Lancashire police, the Canals and Rivers Trust and the RSPCA are now looking into the issue.

Dog walker, Robert Allen, 50, of Langdale Road, Blackburn, said: “The dog walking fraternity in Feniscowles is currently terrified of walking down the canal towpath.

“Something needs to be done to make the area safe again.

“I think someone has done this because of the growing problems with dog muck in the area and that isn’t right.”

Householders in the Langdale Road area recently received a letter from Blackburn with Darwen Council urging dog owners to clean up after their pets.

Resident and dog owner Peter Clarkson said: “It’s awful news that dogs have been poisoned in the area.

“I am purposely keeping away from the canal towpath now just on the off chance there is poison still there. Since I have found out I’ve been watching my dog Elmo like a hawk because he has seemed a little under the weather, but I think he is fine now.

“I had noticed there had been a growing problem with dog mess in the area but for someone to do this in retaliation is just irresponsible.”

Teacher Maxine Smith, of Old Gates, Blackburn, said: “I heard there had been some issues with poison on the canal towpath so I have been steering clear.

“My puppy is in to everything so if there is poison in food or among food he is likely to eat it.

“I just hope the police find out who is behind it soon.”

Officers investigating the issue are now appealing to anyone with information to come forward. The last death reported to the police was on Sunday.

PC Russ Lambert said: “So far four dog deaths are being treated as suspicious and unexplained.

“We are looking into the possibility someone has deliberately poisoned them over concerns of excessive dog mess in the Feniscowles area.

“So far we are yet to speak to all the people involved but it would seem each of the dogs that have died have been walked along the canal towpath within a four day period.

“I have contacted the Canals and Rivers Trust and I will be making contact with a number of local vets to see if we can establish a cause of death.”

An RSPCA spokesman said: “It is every responsible owner’s nightmare for their pet to be poisoned.

“Poisoning can lead to horrible, slow and lingering deaths and cause much suffering to the animals.

“It is an issue the RSPCA takes very seriously and we urge anyone who suspects their animal may have been poisoned to take him or her to the vet so they can both check for evidence and ensure the animal is ok.”

A spokesman from the Canals and Rivers Trust said it would also be working with the police where necessary.