Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cats and the Commerce Clause

Last week, while law students around the country studied Commerce Clause cases for finals, a federal appeals court decided a case on my favorite related subject, feline law. More precisely the court expounded on legendary author Ernest Hemingway's cats--about 50 of them, all descendants of the author's six-toed polydactyl cat, Snowball--and their relation to federal power and the Commerce Clause. 

The cats live in and around the Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West, Florida.  You can read more about them and the case in this article (with video) from the Christian Science Monitor.  In short, after a visitor complained to the U.S. Department of Agriculture about how the cats were being cared for, the Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued demands that the Museum obtain an animal exhibitor's license and maintain the cats in specific types of enclosures.  The Museum then challenged the Department's jurisdiction to regulate it as an animal exhibit under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) (7 U.S.C. Section 2131 et seq.).

In a unanimous opinion affirming the district court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit stated: "The exhibition of the Hemingway cats is integral to the Museum's commercial purpose, and thus, their exhibition affects interstate commerce. For these reasons, Congress has the power to regulate the Museum and the exhibition of the Hemingway cats via the AWA."  The opinion refers to this page on the Museum website as an example of the "purposeful marketing" of the cats.

Only one question remains.  Will there be an appeal? 

Ernster, the Virtual Library Cat

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