KEY WEST, Fla., Aug. 13 (UPI) -- The U.S. government says Florida's Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum needs a license and proper confines to display its number of extra-toed cats.
The Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has threatened to begin fining the Key West facility unless its officials obtain the necessary exhibition license and properly confine the nearly two dozen polydactyl feline ancestors of a cat the famed author once received as a gift.
"They're operating illegally," USDA spokesman Jim Rogers said of the museum. "They don't have an exhibitor's license. An exhibitor is anyone that exhibits animals to the public that we would regulate. This would include zoos, circuses and magicians or anyone who uses animals in their acts, or in their advertisements."
The museum is fighting the decision, claiming the nearly 50 cats on its premises are part of a 40-year tradition at the museum.
The paper said that as part of the fight, officials at the Key West institution have appeared in court to ask a federal judge to rule whether the law applies to their museum.