Community helps veteran clean up his home after 63 dead cats were found in his freezer

VALRICO, Fla. — John Ellis feels like he now lives in a new and much cleaner house.

"Everything is being donated and it's just amazing," said Ellis.

The disabled veteran and his wife just moved back into their Valrico home days ago.

"All the support is fantastic," said Ellis.

But it started with frustration and fear. Long time neighbors called Code Enforcement after they could no longer handle the smell of cats.

"It's been very good. Tt's been the best for everybody," said Pedro Sanchez who lives right next door.

What investigators found after the initial call was startling. 63 dead cats in Ellis' freezer. He said they never hurt the animals

"Hell no!" Ellis exclaimed.

He said the cats passed away naturally.

"I did not know what to do with them and then I thought well this is a good idea. It is sanitary. It is decent. I didn't see anything wrong with that," said Ellis.

RELATED: Family pledges to stop hoarding cats after code enforcement discovers 60 dead felines in freezer

But the hoarding could have cost the couple thousands in fines. Money they don't have.

Instead of turning it over to the courts, officers turned to Code Vet — a program helping heroes in need.

They started by relocating the couple to a hotel as a team of volunteers came in cleaning up.

"We were out for about 10 days," said Ellis.

Businesses donated more than $25,000 and the work is not done yet.

Precision Garage Door of Tampa Bay is installing a new door on Thursday. Sanchez said all of this is a new beginning for the entire neighborhood

"There is still hope for the community, for the state, for the country that people are willing to help," said Sanchez.

And for a man who served the country, he's humbled a community stepped up. Ellis said it not just restored their home but his dignity.

"I had no idea that anything like that was going on," said Ellis.

The couple promises to keep it clean and while they still love cats, it'll be just the two of them enjoying their restored house.

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