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Hemingway’s Cats Go To Court

December 10, 2012

One of the main lures for visitors to the Hemingway home in Key West is the cats: dozens of them, lying, lounging and lapping throughout the grounds, many of them six-toed oddballs.

But now, the cats are in federal court.

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

The USDA insisted the museum needed to better confine the cats at night, give them more elevated resting spaces and get an exhibitor’s license. The museum countered that the cats were a local issue, not a federal one. A judge sided with the feds, though, and when the museum appealed, the appeals court panel did, too. With a bit of a caveat.

“Notwithstanding our holding, we appreciate the Museum’s somewhat unique situation, and we sympathize with its frustration,” wrote Chief Judge Joel Dubina. “Nevertheless, it is not the court’s role to evaluate the wisdom of federal regulations implemented according to the powers constitutionally vested in Congress.”

The decision is ironic, notes the Monitor, given Key West’s iconoclastic reputation.

“The locals don’t even consider themselves part of the United States of America,” writes Warren Richey. “They refer to the place as the Conch Republic.”