USDA claims regulation over famous six-toed cats of Hemingway Home

Posted at 8:12 AM, Dec 17, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-17 23:37:10-05

(WTVR) – Recently a Florida judge reaffirmed the USDA can regulate the conditions and welfare of the polydactyl cats that live in and around Ernest Hemingway’s former home in Key West Florida.

The home has since been made into a museum, remembering the life of one of America’s most famous authors.

According to the case’s opinion, when Hemingway lived in the home from 1931 to 1938, he was given a cat named “Snowball,” by friend Captain Stanley Dexter. The cat was polydactyl, meaning it had more than the normal number of digits on more or more of its paws.

Snowball became the first of a long line of other polydactyl cats that have lived on the property for years.

In 1961, Bernice Dixon purchased Hemingway’s estate and it was later turned into a museum. The owners have kept, fed and provided regular veterinary care for the animals. To manage the population, a majority of the cats are spayed or neutered. Yet at any given time about 40 to 60 cats inhabit the Hemingway Home.

However, several years ago a Museum visitor complained to the United States Department of Agriculture that the cats weren’t being cared for properly.

In the most recent appeal, whether or not the cats were taken care of properly wasn’t discussed in the opinion. Rather the judge asked whether or not the cats are part of interstate commerce.

In the case the court believed that the cats were a part of interstate commerce and therefore subject to federal regulation.

The USDA is now demanding that the museum contain the cat in shelters or build higher fencing around the estate, or even hire a night watchman to watch and care for the cats.

The owners of the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum can ask the Supreme Court to hear the case.