Home / National News / Man in Trouble for Climbing over Ohio Zoo's Fence, Petting Cougars


(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — A visitor at Ohio’s Columbus Zoo is in hot water with zoo personnel for getting a bit too friendly with some cougars.

With his camera rolling, Joshua Newell dropped his bag to the ground, climbed over a 4-foot fence, and petted two adult cougars through the final barrier on July 20. Zoo officials found out about Newell’s antics after he later posted the video on YouTube.

“It was very spontaneous,” Newell said. “I jumped the barrier and showed them some love.”

Now, the 35-year-old has with a legal cat fight on his hands.

“This is very alarming,” Tom Stalf, the president and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, said on Sunday. “We will take action.”

The zoo is ready to pounce, pressing charges against Newell with a misdemeanor count of trespassing and citing public safety and animal welfare as its top priorities.

“They’re a large carnivore,” Stalf said. “They have the potential of doing serious harm.”

But Newell said he never felt threatened.

“Why would I be afraid?” he asked. “They wanted me to pet them.”

Overnight, Newell admitted he regretted his actions.

“I do want to apologize to the Columbus Zoo,” he said. “I am concerned that other people will try it and that’s why I’m on camera to persuade them to not do it.”

Newell is set to appear in court on Wednesday.

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