Road signs urging drivers to slow down so as to protect roaming cats and other animals have been set up in a town an hour’s drive south of Paris.
They were installed this summer on the initiative of a municipal employee, Lionel Garnier, who is also the founder of a local cat shelter in Mennecy in Essonne (Ile-de-France).
“We always had a lot of stray cats,” said Antoine Toche, a representative of the mairie. “Mr Garnier had been feeding them for 15 years, and he would also gather their bodies when they got run over, it was heartbreaking for him.”
His shelter ‘Aux Mennechats’ captures and sterilises stray cats when possible but Mr Garnier noticed that many animals were being killed while crossing roads.
He was able to bring the issue to the attention of the mayor through his job and proposed the idea of new road signs featuring common animals, such as cats.
The proposal was submitted to a common fund for the Ile-de-France region, where it was received positively. The project was able to gather €10,000 in funding, which led to the mairie partnering with a company to design and produce the road signs.
Around 30 signs were installed in areas prone to accidents and frequented by animals. The signs feature cats, hedgehogs and horses and urge drivers to slow down.
A town of animal lovers
In 2020, Mennecy had been awarded the label of ‘animal-friendly town’, with a ‘3 paw’ rating (the highest) and congratulations from the jury.
The award is given by the Ile-de-France region, with a total of 102 towns granted ratings from 1 to 3 paws. Towns are evaluated based on the well-being of animals, spaces dedicated to them, and the effort put on integrating them to schools and retirement homes.
Feedback from residents has been overwhelmingly positive although a few have criticised the project on social media claiming it is a waste of taxpayers' money.
“But it’s not Mennecy’s money, it’s from the Ile-de-France fund,” said Mr Toche.
Mennecy has also been contacted by multiple other towns, which wish to implement similar road signs. The mairie insists that the road signs are copyright free, and encourages other towns to follow their example.