Legal Battle Over The Welfare Of Hemingway Cats

Audrey Hepburn

The Ernest Hemingway House and Museum in Key West, Florida, was where Hemingway wrote and lived for more than 10 years. Now about 60 cats call this place their home.

Ernest Hemingway was given a polydactyl cat and some of the cats who live on the museum grounds are direct descendants of Hemingway’s original cats. About half of the cats at the museum are polydactyl. All 60 cats have names like Audrey Hepburn (pictured here), Emily Dickinson, and Spencer Tracy.

The museum pays for the cost and care of all of the cats and are fed by the caretakers of the museum. All the cats are current on their vaccinations and are spayed or neutered.

For years, there has been a legal battle over these cats and if they should be allowed to wander around the museum. In 2003, Debra Schulz, the former vice president of the local SPCA, filed a complaint with the USDA and said that the museum was violating the Animal Welfare Act.

The USDA ordered the museum to cage the cats and to reduce the number of cats. The museum refused to comply and instead installed fencing above a brick wall which enclosed the museum grounds to keep the cats in at night.

The Monroe County Commission voted against the USDA order to keep the cats caged, and the Key West Commission will vote on a proposal to allow the museum to have more than 4 cats.

More on Hemingway’s cats after the jump.

From keysnews.com:

The city code says “no person may keep more than four domestic animals on any premise.” The code also allows the City Commission to provide for exceptions to the requirement “for premises upon which are kept domestic animals of historical, social or tourism significance.”

“The family of polydactyl cats that live on the property are an integral part of the history and ambiance of the Hemingway House,” the proposed resolution states. “The cats reside on the property just as the cats did in the time of Hemingway himself. They are not on exhibition in the manner of circus animals. … The City Commission finds that family of polydactyl Hemingway cats are indeed animals of historic, social and tourism significance.”

The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has been called to assess the situation, and members of the group support the museum’s policy of keeping the cats free range.

The USDA will be sending a cat behaviorist to assess the well-being of the museum cats later this month.

(Thanks Lynn)

21 Responses to “Legal Battle Over The Welfare Of Hemingway Cats”

  1. NH says:

    The museum should be allowed to keep all of the cats! They are well taken care of and are enclosed at night so they don’t wander. Hemingway is famous for these cats! Leave these cats alone! Isn’t there more pressing issues in Key West these days???

  2. Chaoslillith says:

    Uggh PETA, yeah they will provide a good assessment.

    If the cats are healthy, spayed and well cared for what the hell is the problem sheeessh!!

  3. Traci says:

    http://www.hemingwayhome.com/HTML/our_cats.htm

  4. Traci says:

    Here is more background on the story:

    http://cats.about.com/b/a/257499.htm

  5. Lorri says:

    isn’t there always someone who has to object….sorry but IMHO the SPCA should worry about their own statistics first

  6. JustMe says:

    This is disgusting! Is nothing sacred anymore. Leave the cats where they belong, at the Hemingway Home/Museum. What is wrong with these people. I’ve been reading about the cats for years. They are well taken care of, fed, vaccinated, vetted. Gimme a break!

  7. JennyG says:

    It seems the cats are taken care of. Someone actually thought putting cats in cages is a better option? Leave them alone.

  8. elizabeth says:

    One would think the USDA might have bigger fish to fry, so to speak.

  9. JJ 2 says:

    Debra Schultz, according to a news report, is the pushy neighbor who has caused this mess…at first the museum trusted her, and apparently she even had a key to the museum. She immediately set about arranging the spaying and neutering of the cats. She was overzealous, to the point where there is worry that the line of Hemingway cats may eventually die out as there are now not many left with the ability to continue the line. I have visited the museum…these are some of the happiest, most cared for cats in the world. They are a major part of Key West’s history, and this horrible woman got the USDA involved. You know what that means…in a worst case scenario, the cats could be seized, and then who knows what would happen to them. And at any rate, their carefree, happy way of life would be over. This is the only life they’ve known and they’d be traumatized. How dare Schultz call herself a cat lover! I’ve been following this story for a while, and her excuses as to why she started this don’t wash with me. I think she is an absolutely despicable person on a personal vendetta because the museum finally had it with her interference and told her to get lost.

  10. Trudy Jackson says:

    Leave the cats alone. there’s much more pressing things going on in the world. Maybe We should get Her address and a few others and let them know. The cats are fat, happy, and well cared for. Leave good enough alone.

  11. bw says:

    Unbelievable. It never fails, whenever there is a perfectly functioning, happy, healthy situation for feral cats, or any larger than normal group of cats, along comes a mean spirited busy body who screws up the whole smoothly running program beyond all recognition, always to the detriment of the animals. The Hemingway cats have had it made for years, they are free to wander about their home, they are loved, admired, and well cared for by people who respect them. Why is there always ONE troublesome person whom the powers that be decide to listen to. Why is it that such people can’t be seen for what they are, meddlesome, mean spirited busy bodies with only their own agenda at heart, never caring a tinker’s dam about the welfare of the animals whom they inevitably hurt.
    I think the USDA should spend its time trying to clean up our food supply and not mess with the Hemingway cats. Cage them be damned! Another idiotic government agency solution to a NON-PROBLEM.

  12. Donna says:

    Leave the cats alone.Any one to a mass law suit against this women ? She is attacking a national treasure.

  13. bw says:

    Unbelievable. It never fails, whenever there is a perfectly functioning, happy, healthy situation for feral cats, or any larger than normal group of cats, along comes a mean spirited busy body who screws up the whole smoothly running program beyond all recognition, always to the detriment of the animals. The Hemingway cats have had it made for years, they are free to wander about their home, they are loved, admired, and well cared for by people who respect them.
    I have a bunch of polydactyl cats myself, and I couldn’t imagine a nicer life for them than being part of that historically significant bunch of beloved Hemingway cats, basking in the sun, every need lovingly met. Why is there always ONE troublesome person whom the powers that be for no good reason decide to listen to. Why is it that such people can’t be seen for what they are, meddlesome, mean spirited busy bodies with only their own agenda at heart, who never care a tinker’s dam about the welfare of the animals whom they inevitably hurt.
    I think the USDA should spend its time trying to clean up our food supply and not mess with the Hemingway cats. Cage them be damned! Another idiotic government agency solution to a NON-PROBLEM.

  14. Lorenzo says:

    Cats are carnivorous. PETA will want to cage them and feed them vege-mice.

  15. Lorri says:

    PETA….supports arsonists….pointless causes….and is just another misguided idea gone terribly wrong.

  16. Lynn says:

    My cousin, who has been a frequent visitor to the museum, enlightened me on this story. I just find it incredibly appalling with all the other problems going on with sick, dead, or mutilated animals, that the government would even bother to give it a moment’s thought. Good grief, they don’t have enough manpower or funds to deal with the pet food recall and yet they found the means to send someone there to check it out? [Methinks someone wanted a free trip to Key West.]

    As far as the person who incited this chaos - well, one can only imagine how closed off she is from the rest of the world. Maybe someone should enlighten her about the pet food recall and its fallout so she could redirect her energies where they are most needed.

    Thanks again, Ben, for running the story. And thanks, Ray, for bringing it to my attention.

    Lynn

  17. Sky Eyes Woman says:

    elizabeth said:
    “One would think the USDA might have bigger fish to fry, so to speak.”

    AMEN, SISTER! I’ve been reading about this legal fight for months now and it makes me sick. Aside from the pet food recall fiasco, the USDA also knowingly allows the puppy millers out there to violate their animal welfare standards time and time again and make their animals suffer horribly without any consequences, but they come down on the Hemingway Home like a ton of bricks when the cats are happy and well cared for.

    It makes me fuming mad when I think about all the time and resources they’re wasting on this when they let other animals more in need of their intervention go on suffering and dying. But, that’s a government agency for ya, enjoy watching your tax dollars at work.

  18. pat says:

    as if usda gives a rat’s heinie about the welfare of animals, or the welfare of people for that matter. common sense should prevail over the twisted agendas of the various factions. the cats are basically in a sanctuary, their care is provided for, and these anal orifices should butt out. it rots my socks that one penny of my tax dollars should be devoted to harassing this museum and these cats.

  19. pat says:

    there’s an online petition to save the hemingway cats at this url:

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com...../238641085

  20. straybaby says:

    my Yankee *Big Mits* would like to say:

    “Let the Hemi’s live in peace and happiness!!!”

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/straybaby/720315271/

  21. linda says:

    Please, someone cage the person who started this. Send her away or put her on exhibit in her cage. If there is a class lawsuit against her which there should be I’ll be in. How about it?


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