Man in Trouble for Climbing Over Ohio Zoo's Fence and Petting Cougars

Joshua Newell now has a legal cat fight with the Columbus Zoo.

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

“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 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.”

This isn't the first time someone got up close and personal with a big cat at a public zoo.

In 2011, a school outing took a terrifying turn when a leopard attacked a little boy. The first-grader apparently climbed over the railing and got too close, with only a thin metal mesh fence between them.

“The cat just really reached out and grabbed him by his head,” said eyewitness Naomi Robinson.

Luckily, the boy survived.

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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