Years ago when I finally bought my dream car, a Mustang convertible, I couldn’t wait to drive it to Key West. I was thrilled by the prospect of driving south on Route 1 from the mainland, across each of the Florida Keys, the Seven Mile Bridge and finally onto Duval Street in old town Key West.
It was a beautiful drive and the weather was warm and sunny. So sunny, in fact, that the tops of our knees were burnt by the time we arrived at our destination. I’ve been to Key West several times and each time I’ve visited two attractions ... the Key West Light House and the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum ... and the famous six-toed cats that live there.
Over the years, the popular tourist attraction has encountered difficulties when it comes to the Hemingway cats and last Friday the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on ruled that the government has the power to regulate the dozens of cats that live at the historic home. As many as 250,000 visitors are said to visit the home each year to experience the house where the famed American writer lived from 1931 to 1938 and to see the famous descendents of the cats whose company he enjoyed.
“There is no doubt that the Hemingway home is one of the landmark attractions on Key West. Hemingway has been gone for more than 50 years, but he’s still a Key West icon. Everybody knows about the six-toed cats and certainly they are part of the ambiance and the charm of the Hemingway Home and Museum.” - Andy Newman, spokesman for the Florida Keys tourism council.
Court documents note that the museum has always kept, fed, and provided weekly veterinary care for the Hemingway cats, and spayed or neutered most of them to prevent the population from growing beyond the historical norm of 50–60 cats.
“They’re very much an important part of the history of the property. We want people to come and see it the way it was when Hemingway was here — to see it the same way he saw it, with the 50 cats running around the property.” - Dave Gonzales, spokesman for the Hemingway Home & Museum.”
The museum declined to comment about the court decision. It’s been my experience, however, that they cats aren’t hurting a darned thing. They’re all very healthy, well cared for and their care is financed by donations and revenue generated by the museum. Key West has bigger problems than famous cats.
Have you seen the Hemmingway Cats?
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