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Judge Asked to Help in Hemingway Cat Dispute

July 29, 2006|From the Associated Press

MIAMI — The caretakers of Ernest Hemingway's Key West home want a federal judge to intervene in their dispute with the U.S. Department of Agriculture over the cats on the property.

More than 50 cats, many of them descendants of a six-toed cat the novelist received as a gift in 1935, wander the grounds of the home, where Hemingway lived for more than 10 years and wrote "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "To Have and Have Not."

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum disputes the USDA's claim that it is an "exhibitor" of cats and needs to have a USDA Animal Welfare License, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Miami.

"What they're comparing the Hemingway house to is a circus or a zoo because there are cats on the premises," Cara Higgins, the home's attorney, said Friday. "This is not a traveling circus. These cats have been on the premises forever."

The agency has repeatedly denied a license for the Hemingway home under the Animal Welfare Act, which the home contends governs animals in commerce. The USDA has threatened to charge the home $200 per cat per day for violating the act, the complaint says.

The agency has said the fence around the property is not sufficient to contain the cats.

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