Hemingway museum needs zoo license for cats

by Walter Olson on December 13, 2012

Key West, Fla.: “The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum reports that it currently houses between 40 and 50 cats [descended from the famous author's beloved six-toed cat]…. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled Friday that the Hemingway Home falls under the classification of an ‘animal exhibitor,’ subject to regulation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Animal Welfare Act.” [David Demirbilek, Daily Caller; Christian Science Monitor; ABA Journal]

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Advice Goddess Blog
12.15.12 at 2:38 am

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1 Black Death 12.13.12 at 12:09 pm

I’ve visited the hemingway house several times – it’s great, and so are the cats.

One of my favorite Hemingway quotes: “When the New Deal came to town, everyone stopped working.”

2 Anonymous Nicholas 12.13.12 at 1:51 pm

Sounds like an appropriate application of the law to me. You’re exhibiting animals; you’re an animal exhibitor; you are expected to abide by animal-exhibition laws. Three cheers for this common-sense ruling.

Perhaps, though, the whole law is bad. I don’t know about that.

3 Shoot Feral Cats 12.13.12 at 5:49 pm

@Nick So then may I ask you this? I have feral cats at my place of business. One may visit my place of business at any time of day and see feral cats. Does this make me an exhibitor, and therefore under the purview of this ridiculous law?

What makes them an exhibitor?

Next the USDA will regulate grass so everybody with grass in the front of their property will need a “grass exhibitor” license. I can see it now. Grass Zoos displaying the myriad of species. “Off to the left we have Asian Bamboos, and over here we have California Buckwheat….. ”

Feral cats? Please. Shoot them.

4 Shoot Feral Cats 12.13.12 at 5:52 pm

Actually, the museum website states they provide veterinary care. That put them in this stupid mess.

Over ‘n out.

5 DensityDuck 12.13.12 at 6:16 pm

I’m okay with the court deciding to avoid judicial activism.

I’m less okay with the fact that this is a regulatory action performed by the Federal bureaucracy, rather than a legislative action performed by the Congress. As in most of these cases, none of the people involved have any reason to expect reprisal for their actions; even if all 350 million people in the United States hate them, they’re guaranteed forty years behind the desk and a nice pension afterwards. The closest we get to voting for the people going after Hemingway’s cats is that their boss’s boss’s boss’s boss is the President.

6 Anonymous Nicholas 12.14.12 at 12:13 am

@Duck, I’m not sure I understand your point. Legislative actions aren’t much of anything if a bureaucrat doesn’t do something. What good is a law if the law isn’t enforced by a government agent?

Citizens elected representatives; the representatives passed a law; the law was enforced. How else would you like it to work?

7 Frank 12.14.12 at 10:44 am

Shoot feral cats:

First, the cats are not identified as feral cats but as descendants of a pet.
The museum appears to promote the cats as part of the Hemingway heritage.

In your case, if you had 40-50 even feral cats which you fed and cared for (as apparently the museum does) living on and overrunning your property, as a non-exhibitor you might be charged with cruelty to animals for failing to care for the cats or in one of the wonderful twists of animal law, for failing to eradicate them.

There are plenty of news stories about ‘cat ladies’ charged with this offense.

8 Melvin H. 12.16.12 at 1:37 pm

No, the next thing–the grass–will require an environmental impact statement or two to mow, followed by the. Sierra Club suing to stop that, followed by appeals…..etc.

9 DensityDuck 12.17.12 at 2:55 pm

@Nicholas: There’s a difference between “enforcement” and rulemaking. The latter is what actually determines the extent of legal behavior, and defines what consistuties illegal behavior.

And, the thing is, that’s not what the Executive Branch is supposed to be doing. The intent was that the people would have as direct a say as possible in the laws of the land. And, presumably, if we determined that a particular lawmaker was not making the laws as we wanted, we could vote for someone else who would.

But you don’t get to vote for the people in the FAA, or the FDA, or any of those organizations.

10 George B 12.17.12 at 3:51 pm

Here are the FDA guidelines.
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_welfare/content/printable_version/fs_anexhit.pdf

Note that cat shows and animal preserves would be exempt from federal regulation. Also note that the Hemingway Museum neither sells cats nor puts on shows where the cats perform for money. Instead they primarily preserve descendants of Hemingway’s 6 toed cats.

11 Klaus 12.22.12 at 2:57 pm

30+ cats is too much for an author’s museum. Hasn’t anyone let the manager know there’s a spay and neuter clinic down the street? Hemingway started with what, two cats? Just a tempest on a Key.

12 Dusty Rainbolt 01.10.13 at 3:12 pm

I have written about the museum for several publications. I have photographed them. The cats are not feral. They are contained within a cat fence that surrounds the property. All but a chosen few are altered. It’s a huge compound and the cats are allowed to go where they want. They can even sleep on Hemingway’s bed There’s no crowding. The vet visits weekly. I even got to look at their vet records. I wish most cats received this quality of care and love. In a time when the nation is on the brink of bankruptcy, and when there are so many real issues these judges and bureaucracies could be addressing, it’s a waste of time and taxpayer money to continue to hound the museum.

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