Jonah Goldberg

"obtain an exhibitor's license; contain and cage the cats in individual shelters at night, or alternatively, construct a higher fence or an electric wire atop the existing brick wall, or alternatively, hire a night watchman to monitor the cats; tag each cat for identification purposes; construct additional elevated resting surfaces for the cats within their existing enclosures; and pay fines for the museum's non-compliance with the Animal Welfare Act."

I don't have the space here to get into all of the details of this 10-year-old legal dispute. But, in short, it's all incredibly stupid.

The fracas began when a neighbor felt that one of the Hemingway cats -- Ivan -- was getting, in her words, too "macho" with the street cats she fed a couple doors down. So, obviously, she complained to the government in Washington about Ivan the Terrible, and Uncle Sam sprang into action.

After a decade of squabbling, a federal appeals court recently sided with the Obama administration, ruling the museum must comply with the federal diktat or get rid of the cats.

To be fair, maybe the cats are a problem. But you know what? If they are, they're not my problem. I don't live in Key West.

In other words, what on earth is Washington doing setting cat policy -- polydactyl or otherwise -- for Key West, Fla.?

I'm always amazed by people who love visiting exotic locales abroad -- and are often sanctimonious about keeping them exotic -- but simultaneously support a government at war with exoticism here at home.

The federal government has plenty on its plate already. It should not be the cavalry of busybody neighbors or aggrieved cat ladies who can't win an argument at the local level.

Key West is not Mogadishu. It has a functioning government, as does the state of Florida. Residents there -- and across America -- are capable of self-rule, which includes the right to live in ways other Americans might think is crazy or wrong. If the six-toed cats launch an insurrection, complete with an updated feline "Don't tread on me" feline flag, by all means send in the feds.

Otherwise, the locals can work it out for themselves. They'll be happier, and Key West will be a more interesting place to visit.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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