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Man facing charges for petting the cougars at Ohio zoo

By Ben Hooper
Man facing charges for petting the cougars at Ohio zoo
Josh Newell hopped a barrier and reached through a fence to pet two cougars at the Columbus Zoo. He is facing a charge of criminal trespassing. Jmilestones Newell/YouTube video screenshot

COLUMBUS, Ohio, July 27 (UPI) -- A man facing charges after he taped himself hopping a fence at the Columbus Zoo to pet the cougars said he regrets his actions.

Josh Newell, 35, is facing a criminal trespassing charge after a video he posted to YouTube revealed he had jumped a fence at the cougar exhibit to pet the mountain lions.

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"That was a very bad decision," Newell told WCMH-TV. "If I had to do it over I definitely 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."

The zoo said both of the animals Newell interacted with are geriatric and used to being around humans, but the barrier he crossed was put in place for the safety of the animals and zoo visitors.

"I wouldn't want any harm to come to the animals for biting me if it happened that way, so let's just be thankful I'm still in one piece," Newell said.

Newell, who is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday, said he is prepared to pay a fine for the incident, but he is hoping to avoid a ban from the zoo.

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"I've thought about reaching out to them to do some volunteer work or donations, anything I can do to help them out," he said.

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