USDA Proposes To Confine Hemingway House Cats

Hemingway Cat

The controversy over the polydactyl cats that reside at the Hemingway House and Museum continues.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing that these beloved Hemingway cats be treated like performers in a zoo or circus. The agency wants the museum to obtain an animal exhibition license. This would require staff to “protect” the cats from being in contact with the “spectators”, and the cats would be cages after their “daily performance” ends when the museum closes at 5pm.

A spokesperson for the USDA said the agency was not insisting on individual cages for the cats. The agency recommends that “enclosures be set up so other animals can’t enter and the cats can’t get into the street.”

The spokesperson also said that she couldn’t comment on specific changes proposed at the museum because the case has become a legal matter. The museum has challenged the USDA designation in district court, which has sent the case back to the parties to seek a negotiated solution.

From LA Times:

“Our cats do not do tricks. They don’t do flips and jump through hoops. They’re our pets!” said Jacque Sands, manager and 14-year veteran at the museum, where the cats can curl up in kitty condos scattered through the gardens. “They own us. We don’t own them.”

There are now Web-based petitions to Save the Hemingway Cats, and the Key West City Commission has exempted the museum from a city law prohibiting more than four domestic pets per household. The commission pronounced the cats “an integral part of the history and ambiance of the Hemingway house,” which draws 300,000 visitors each year.

Tourists oppose the government moves to restrict the free-ranging felines, whose names and haughty deportment evoke images of an era when the two-legged Ava Gardner, Spencer Tracy and Rita Hayworth mingled with literary legends like Hemingway, MacLeish and Simone de Beauvoir.

“I don’t think that’s right at all!” Charlene Walters of Greenville, Ohio, said of the USDA demands as she tried to entice a calico reclining at poolside.

“Hemingway had them this way — they’re not hurting anybody,” said Robert Cole of Knoxville, Tenn., as he and his wife, Rachel, rested on a wrought-iron bench with Jake Barnes stretched out in the shade below them.

After nearly four years of legal wrangling, the case of the exhibited but nonperforming cats may be heading toward compromise.

The USDA postponed a July administrative hearing to allow an animal behaviorist from the University of Florida, Terry Curtis, to render an independent assessment of how confinement would affect the cats’ mental and physical health. Her report is expected in two to three weeks.

15 Responses to “USDA Proposes To Confine Hemingway House Cats”

  1. wescott20 says:

    Beyond belief. The incompetent USDA, which constantly fails in their duty to keep the US food supply safe (spinach, anyone?), is now bullying and attempting to destroy one of America’s most beloved historical institutions to the detriment of the well being of the Hemingway cats because of the vindictive complaints of one moron- that “animal rights” hypocrite b**tch Debbie Schultz (the woman who already betrayed the museum’s trust by destroying the bloodline of the Hemingway cats…thanks to her, only one male remains who can breed), even though this is against the wishes of the city of Key West, the museum caretakers who know and love the cats best, the American public, and even members of Congress.

  2. pat says:

    i want to know what kind of pull schultz has that can divert vital resources from the real job of protecting the public and animals who are truly living in abusive conditions and devote them to bullshirt like this. when the average citizen contacts usda to express concern that animals and people are being poisoned because of a total lack of corporate responsibility in agribusiness, that’s ignored. when some wooly-headed be-otch complains about a tom cat that got loose, the federal government sends experts on fact finding junkets to beautiful key west…. hmmm.

  3. Lynn says:

    I’ve got a better idea: let’s confine the USDA to working on REAL problems.

    Who’s the idiot who put these cats on the USDA “task” list? Does no one know how to prioritize by damage impact in the USDA? Do they not “get” that pets and people getting poisoned is more of a disaster than some cats that really aren’t doing anything wrong?

    The stupidity of our government never ceases to amaze me.

  4. Debbie4747 says:

    Okay, let me get this straight too. USDA isn’t really protecting us from bad foods but they want the Hemingway cats to be caged after their “performances”? When did they become food? These cats have been a terrific tourist attraction for years with no problems, and now the USDA want to control it?

    If anyone needs to be caged after their “performance” I’d say it’s the USDA, FDA, FEMA and the Bush Administration. Then again, no one pays to see them.

  5. Phoebe says:

    “In October 2003, a USDA inspector posing as a tourist surveyed the grounds and later ordered the museum staff to get a license or face $10,000 in daily fines. Since then, a veterinarian from the USDA has made repeated inspections of the property, recommending increasingly restrictive measures each time,…..”

    Well, now, isn’t this special? The USDA suddenly discovers it can fine people and force them to bend to its will. Oh, and it has the resources to send a vet back to the property time and again to insist on even more stringent controls over the cats. So much for no enforcement powers.

    Imagine what the USDA could do if it chose to investigate something worthwhile like food safety. But, golly, I’m ever-so-glad that the United States Department of Agriculture is protecting all of us from many-toed cats on a South Florida island. Now I can sleep at night!

    What a sick joke our gov’t. agencies have been turned into. The next election can’t get here soon enough.

  6. Traci says:

    “The Hemingway cats rarely strayed from the 1-acre property surrounded by a 5-foot brick wall until Schultz arrived about eight years ago and established a feral-cat feeding site half a block away, Morawski said. Cats began disappearing over the wall and turning up at the SPCA as captured strays, he said.”


  7. Anonymous says:

    Why doesn’t the USDA mind it’s own business and do some real work. I do think taking care of feral cats is important, but the Hemmingway place was there first - is there a reason the feeding station was set up so close?

  8. Lorri says:

    Let’s confine the self righteous bitch Debbie Schultz to a cage after her “performance”
    What is this woman’s deal? Time to start writing to the legislators for that area…obviously she’s figured out the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

  9. Lynn says:

    It sounds as though one complaint by Schultz snowballed into a legion of legal rules and tribulations.

    I have to wonder why Schultz set up a feeding station for [other] cats so close to the museum [or at all, for that matter], especially with Ivan the Terrorist [I say this in jest] 4 doors away. I mean, really, how would YOU like to have the candy store so accessible?

  10. Traci says:

    ::I mean, really, how would YOU like to have the candy store so accessible?::

    “Build it, they will come”

  11. Danielle says:

    The USDA can’t keep track of contaminated food- or stop disgusting people from running puppy mills, and don’t have the staff to regulate important issues- but they have all of these resources for something as ridiculous as trying to have these cats confined. They aren’t preformers! Hemingway left the property to his cats- and that’s where they belong- they should have every right to roam freely on that property.

  12. 2CatMom says:

    Sounds like the USDA has come down with a case of Mad Cat Disease!

  13. Debbie4747 says:

    2CatMom says:

    July 31st, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    “”Sounds like the USDA has come down with a case of Mad Cat Disease!

    LOL! Very good!

  14. GO USDA says:

    These cats are dying due to getting hit by cars, who should regulate them?

  15. kim says:

    If the USDA has their way, there will be more problems than this. Check out
    This government office is running amuck…dangerously so. They are not out to protect anyone or anything except
    foreign trade and the big processors/factory farms.

    If you eat you carnivor or herbivor, watch the USDA…closely!

    If you own a pet, watch the USDA….closely!

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