DEVASTATED dog owners in Tunbridge Wells have warned others to be alert after their pets died from poison found on a popular common.
Authorities are urging people to "be vigilant" when walking on Rusthall Common after the deaths of several animals were attributed to eating rat poison.
The common's warden and the RSPCA both said they believe the pets had been poisoned and refused to rule out it being a deliberate attempt to kill dogs.
Chris and Kate Hills, of Lower Green Road, lost their beloved Staffordshire bull terrier Ria, after she became ill following a walk on Rusthall Common.
Mrs Hills said: "I came back from the walk and she was really sick and struggling to walk around.
"I took her down to the vets and they put her on a drip.
"I was told by the vet that he thought it was some kind of poison. I think it was something to do with the Vitamin K levels in her blood and it could be linked to some kind of poison.
"A few days later she collapsed and I had to take her to the emergency vets. She was taken up to be examined and I was told she was bleeding internally."
She added: "I decided to have her put down. I was told she could have a blood transfusion but there was no guarantee she would get better.
"I started spreading the word straight away, telling people not to walk on Rusthall Common."
The family said they knew of at least four other incidents where pets have died after reportedly eating poison, although other villagers say it is double that number.
Mrs Hills now refuses to take her other dogs, Storm and Bale, on Rusthall Common, saying she "never wants to go through that again".
Another Rusthall dog owner, whom the Courier agreed not to name, said his Staffordshire bull terrier fell ill in December after walking in the same area. The animal lost almost a stone in less than a week before she collapsed and died.
In a message on the Tunbridge Wells Commons Conservators website, warden Steve Budden said: "I am hearing reports of dogs picking up poisoned items on Rusthall Common and have been told there have been a number of deaths.
"The implication seems to be that someone is putting out poison bait, with the intention of deliberately targeting pets, but I would emphasise that these reports are not confirmed yet. I would urge all dog owners to be vigilant when walking on the Commons."
RSPCA spokesman Calie Rydings said: "We are extremely concerned about this situation.
"At this point we don't have enough information to know what is causing this but it appears likely that the dogs were poisoned and we cannot rule out the possibility that this has been deliberate.
"We would urge dog walkers in the area to be vigilant and anyone with information to contact the RSPCA, in confidence, on 0300 123 4999."