Hoarding case: 63 cats found in retired veteran's freezer

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From the street, it looks like a normal home, but that changes quickly when you step inside.  The furniture is torn apart by claws, the floor is saturated with cat urine, and authorities say they removed 63 cats from the freezer.

"The truth is, I ran out of room in the backyard to bury them and I didn't know what else to do with them, so I put them in the freezer," said John Ellis, a retired veteran.

He and his partner, 70-year-old Cheryl Smith, say they cared for all their dozens of cats that were taken by Animal Control. 

"They acted like they weren't fed enough. That's not true. They ate before we did," Smith told FOX 13 News.

Now, Hillsborough County Code Enforcement is planning an extensive clean-up of their Valrico home.

"We're taking everything down to the concrete slab," said Aaron Slattery of Spaulding Decon.

Every year, the Tampa-based decontamination company chooses a hardship case for a free clean-up. Cases like these are not just a nuisance. They can cause health problems.

Smith and Ellis' home smells of years of saturation with cat urine.

"I knew that ammonia in the carpet would not only kill them, it would kill us," Smith said.  

Both say they can't wait for the cleanup. They'll be put up in a motel for a week while it's done.

"It's an absolute Godsend. We're just thrilled," said Ellis.

The couple will move back into their cleaned home in time for Christmas with a condition imposed by Code Enforcement -- that they don't keep cats.