Sometimes in the law the arcane intersects with the familiar.
If you look at the recent decisions of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, you would find a boringly-titled case: 907 Whitehead Street, Inc. v. Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, Case No. 11-14217 (decided December 7, 2012). Reading the first paragraph of the Opinion tells you that the case is an administrative dispute over whether or not an institution fits within the definition of an “animal exhibitor” under the federal Animal Welfare Act. Hardly page-turning stuff. However, the underlying subject is much more familiar and interesting.
Hemingway cats. Many people have visited the Hemingway house and museum in Key West and seen the six-toed cats that populate the property. Responding to a complaint by a visitor, the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspected the property and determined that the museum was an “animal exhibitor” subject to regulation under the Animal Welfare Act. In its Opinion, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed that conclusion.
The Opinion deals with weighty issues of statutory interpretation and whether regulating the cats fit within Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause. The Opinion does not describe the dangers faced by the unregulated cats.
The Opinion can be found at: http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/index.php
The Hemingway cats can be found at: http://www.hemingwayhome.com/cats/