A Farewell to Cats: Hemingway’s Feline Friends at Risk

hems cat

Earnest Hemingway was given a cat by the captain of a ship, while Hemingway was living in Key West in the 1930’s. According to a Daily Caller article,

Hemingway fell in love with the cat, and ever since, generations of six-toed descendants of Papa’s cherished companion have resided peacefully on the grounds of Hemingway’s former home, now a museum.

So what is the biggest threat to these cats’ happy, peaceful existence? Same as ours, the government. Under the Animal Welfare Act a U.S. Court of appeals has ruled that  those cats are subject to United States Department of Agriculture regulation. Because there are now 40 to 50 cats on the property, and because the museum advertises the cats as part of the attraction, and since viewing the cats is part of the benefits of the admission ticket, the U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that the museum falls under the category of animal exhibitor.

The museum’s conflict with the agency dates back to 2003, when a Hemingway Home visitor complained to the USDA about the museum’s care of the cats. In response, the USDA entered museum property and conducted an investigation into the complaint.

Although a museum visitor complained about the “care of the cats”, there was no indication that the cats were poorly cared for, treated poorly, unhealthy, or posed a risk to visitors. The museum website even has some pictures of the cats on the page that explains why the cats still roam the museum, and the write up explains that “Routine procedures such as ear mite treatment, flea spraying, and worming are performed here at the museum by our Veterinarian, Dr. Edie Clark. Dr Clark also administers annual vaccinations, and performs routine animal health maintenance.”

So why am I talking about cats on a political blog, surely there are more important things going on in the country, right? Well that’s part of my point, that tax dollars are being wasted constantly by investigators, courts, and other federal agencies to “solve” non-issues. The USDA is requiring that the museum acquire an exhibitor’s license, and separate the poor kitties into separate cages at night. Their list of demands and changes that must be made in order to comply with the USDA continued:

or alternatively, construct a higher fence or an electric wire atop the existing brick wall, or alternatively, hire a night watchman to monitor the cats; tag each cat for identification purposes; construct additional elevated resting surfaces for the cats within their existing enclosures; and pay fines for the Museum’s non-compliance with the AWA.

All these things mean extra costs to the business, which will have to re-evaluate and see if it can stay in business with the added red tape. If not, they must figure out if the attraction of the cats draws enough business to negatively effect the museum if the cats were removed. (I must admit the fact that cats freely roam the grounds immediately appealed to me, and I felt drawn to visit the museum, if it wasn’t 1500 miles away). The point is that once again the federal government has stepped in to save the day, and just ended up harming a business, causing unneeded stress and work in these business owners’ lives, wasting tax dollars investigating, hearing, and enforcing, and no benefit to anyone has come from any of it.

But where did they derive the power to regulate a business well within the borders of one state? The commerce clause of course!

The court found that the regulation of the cats is a federal issue, because their use in advertising draws in thousands of visitors from outside Florida, affecting interstate commerce.

By this logic the federal government has the power to regulate anything, anywhere in the United States, using the commerce clause. Could your business be seen as possibly attracting out of state customers? Regulated. Did you advertise in a different state, encouraging people to cross the state border to patronize your business? Regulated. Did you mention your business while on vacation? Regulated. Did someone in another state think about your business at any time? Regulated. If the founding fathers wanted the congress to be able to regulate any financial transaction, or business agreement anywhere in the United States for any reason or purpose, they would have said that. What they did say, in the commerce clause, is that congress has the power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

So congressional power to regulate commerce among the several states, has been taken and run with by politicians wishing to exert their authority anywhere within the country. First of all, the word regulate means to make regular, or uniform. The founding fathers wanted to make sure one state was not disadvantaging other states around it by charging tariffs on imported goods, or favoring contracts from within the state, or making it impossible for citizens from other states to conduct commerce in their state.

This museum in Key West almost certainly attracts some, maybe even most of their customers from out of state, but this is not free license for the federal government to regulate that business. The fact is this has nothing to do with the federal government, and no where does our constitution mention it as a federal prerogative to regulate businesses, only commerce among the several states. I wanted to share this as another example of broadening federal power, which does not help society, nor work for the greater good. This is partly the heavy unconscious hand of bureaucracy at work, and partly the heavy regulatory hand of the federal government. Everything within the state, nothing outside it seems to be the common mantra of today’s politicians.

All I want is to make sure these kittens aren’t left out, in the rain.

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