DELAWARE, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio man who jumped a fence to pet cougars at the Columbus zoo and posted video of it on YouTube says he jokingly said “Here, kitty” and decided to move closer when the animals seemed to respond.
Thirty-five-year-old Joshua Newell of suburban Gahanna is set for arraignment Wednesday on a misdemeanor criminal trespassing charge.
The video posted last week showed an outer fence being jumped, then two cougars being petted through another fence as a voice says “Kitty, kitty, kitty.”
Newell tells WBNS-TV the encounter lasted several minutes. He says he may have acted like an idiot but also questions the ease of access to the cats.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium officials say safety and animal welfare are top priorities but they’d prefer not to change the exhibit.
According to NBC New York, Newell later said he regretted petting the animals.
“That was a very bad decision,” Newell said. “If I had to do it over I definitely would have would have stayed within the barrier boundaries. I was thinking I’m an animal lover. The cats were looking like they wanted some love and just jumped over and petted them.”