Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hemingway Museum Needs USDA Zoo License for Cats

File under: The government will grab every opportunity it can to expand.

 The Christian Science Monitor reports:
Mr. Hemingway spent most of the 1930s in Key West completing some of his best work. Now, his former house at 907 Whitehead Street is a museum open to daily tours and the occasional wedding.

It also continues to be home to 40 to 50 six-toed cats that are a living legacy of Hemingway. As in Hemingway’s time, the cats are allowed to roam and lounge at will in the house and on the one-acre grounds.

That’s how the federal government became involved.

At some point several years ago, a museum visitor expressed concern about the cats’ care. The visitor took that concern all the way to the US Department of Agriculture and, literally, made a federal case out of it.

Soon USDA inspectors showed up in Key West. They said that if the museum wanted to display cats it needed an exhibitor’s license as required under the federal Animal Welfare Act. (That’s the same law that regulates circuses, zoos, and traveling dog and pony shows.)

Federal officials advised the museum that it also needed to take action to: Confine the cats in individual cages each night, or construct a higher fence around the property, or install an electric wire atop the existing brick wall, or hire a night watchman to keep an eye on the cats.

The museum was ordered to tag each cat for identification, and add additional elevated resting surfaces within the cat’s enclosures.

USDA officials also advised that the museum would face fines for noncompliance...

The museum fought back, asking a federal judge in 2009 to rule that the USDA did not have authority over the Hemingway cats.

A lawyer for the museum told the judge that this was not a federal issue and that there were better-situated agencies in Key West, Monroe County, or the State of Florida to monitor and regulate the care and feeding of cats in Key West.

The judge disagreed. He ruled that the USDA was well within its authority to regulate the cats.

The museum appealed. In a unanimous decision announced on Friday, the three-judge panel agreed that the USDA does, in fact, have the necessary authority to regulate the Hemingway cats.

The court said the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) has been broadly interpreted by federal officials to authorize  regulation of any exhibit of animals that are made available to the public.

The appeals court also concluded this broad interpretation of the AWA to extend to the regulation of cats in a museum did not exceed Congress’s power to authorize such federal regulations under the Commerce Clause.

The question, the court said, was whether the Hemingway cats “substantially affect” interstate commerce.

The judges said they do. . . .


  1. As a veterinarian I have issues with 40-50 feral cats but really the USDA??? This article made me laugh so hard as I see the insanity of our wise overlords and their encroachments on our lives in their interpretations of the commerce and welfare clauses. Of course, Federal judges can never allow their fellow travelers in the government any loss of overreaching power.

    1. I don't think they're feral. I bet they're spayed and cared for. If they were truly obnoxious, I'm sure the neighbors and the local authorities would have stepped in.

    2. If they were feral, they would not be "roam(ing) and loung(ing) at will in the house and on the one-acre grounds", particularly if there were lots of people around. We tamed a feral cat and it is the patient work of months (and months).

    3. You don't get to 40 0r 50 if they are spayed/neutered. Unless the museum has a cloning program.

  2. Literally everything can be interrupted to be under the commerce clause.

    If you are alive, you have potential to do interstate commerce, thus under the commerce clause the federal government can regulate abortions.

  3. I think the courts are just being catty.

  4. Dubya was Right!! The Constitution IS just a Goddamn piece of paper.

  5. Judge Dubina? LOL:) In Russian the word "dubina" when used to describe a person means "thick-headed". Quite fitting, I'd say.

  6. Looks like it's time to start killing cats.

  7. Let's not forget how the government became involved in the first place, some busybody asshole that likely never bothered to ask those in charge at the museum about the care of the cats.

  8. I have been there and seen the cats. They are very well taken care of, every one.