When Ernest Hemingway passed away, he left a passel of cats at his home in Key West, many of them six-toed. His home was turned into a museum, and the descendants of Hemingway’s cats still live there, and have become part of the attraction. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) decided that the museum should obtain an exhibitor’s license, and comply with certain animal exhibition rules. So the museum took them to court. This week a federal appellate court (the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta) ruled that since the cats are integral to the museum’s commercial purpose, they are therefore subject to federal regulation because they substantially affect interstate commerce.
The language there is significant, because the federal government may only regulate interstate commerce, as allowed under the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The founding fathers anticipated that the States would be allowed to regulate their own commerce; that’s why it’s called the INTERSTATE Commerce Clause. However, the courts have continuously allowed the federal government to expand its powers because they have ruled almost anything can affect interstate commerce. Everything: from farmers who grown their own crops and only sell them in local markets, to Hemingway’s 6-toed cats, have been found to have the potential to affect interstate commerce, and are therefore subject to federal regulation.
The founding fathers had intended state matters to be reserved to the states. There’s no reason Florida should not be able to decide if Hemingway’s kitties need more government supervision. But the federal government is willing to take these issues up the appellate court ladder to protect their far-reaching regulatory powers. It costs us twice as much because the regulation by both state and federal agencies are duplicative. No word if the Hemingway House intends to appeal, though the current court may be sympathetic to finally turning the tide on the federal power expansion.
I know this is not criminal related, but, you know… kitties.