Hearing date set for Myrtle Beach hyena owner, Bubbles

Petock, who brought Bubbles from Texas, said before coming to South Carolina, he researched the laws regarding having a wild, exotic animal such as a hyena.

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By Janelle Frost
jfrost@thesunnews.com

Myrtle Beach resident Nicolas Petock said Thursday that he misses his friend.

The 26-year-old’s striped hyena named Bubbles was taken last Friday by Myrtle Beach police.

“It’s very detrimental to our relationship with him,” said Petock, who had the nearly 1-year-old hyena for about six months. “Even as young as he is, it’s hard for him to trust people,” said Petock, who gave Bubbles his name because “as a pup, when he got nervous, he made a bubbling noise.”

Police cited Petock for owning and displaying a wild exotic animal after officers went to his home at 602 First Ave. S. last Friday and saw the hyena, police said.

A court hearing is scheduled for Petock on April 7, according to clerks at the Myrtle Beach Municipal Court.

According to Myrtle Beach’s city ordinances, it is “unlawful for any person to sell, expose to public view or contact, exhibit either gratuitously or for a fee, any wild or feral animals, or any animal of mixed domestication and feral lineage within the corporate limits of the city on public or private property,” unless otherwise stated in the ordinance.

Petock, who brought Bubbles from Texas, said before coming to South Carolina, he researched the laws regarding having a wild, exotic animal such as a hyena.

“We weren’t trying to sell him,” said Petock, who wanted the hyena because he said they are very unappreciated animals. “He is a member of the family.”

A police officer saw the hyena in a fenced enclosure in the rear of the home and contacted Petock about it, according to a police report. Police said it was housed in a fenced area large enough to allow the hyena to move in a circle around a dog house, the report stated.

Ken Alfieri, one of the curators at Alligator Adventure, said Petock’s backyard was probably the wrong location to have a hyena.

“I’m not against ownership,” Alfieri said. “It is better just to be outside of city limits where you have a lot of space. The rule with exotic animals is to have two fences, doubled-fence and closed-fence, as you are better able to control access to your animal.”

Alfieri, who said Bubbles was taken to a large enclosure 3½ hours away from Myrtle Beach, said it is the first case of anyone having a hyena that he has seen in South Carolina. He has seen cases in Florida and Texas, he said.

“The striped hyena is different than some of the hyenas we see on the Discovery Channel,” Alfieri said. “They are middle-sized hyenas that generally are reasonably nice animals. They do bond with people, and they do well in captivity. They are both loyal and bonded to their owners.

“The spotted hyena and the brown hyena can be bigger,” Alfieri said. “They [travel in] a pack, are true meat eaters and predators, while the striped hyena is mid-size, a loner, typically shy and will eat as much fruit and vegetables as it does meat.”

Petock described Bubbles, native to West Africa, as a loner.

“You have to gain the trust of a striped hyena more than you do of a spotted one,” said Petock, who also has a couple of dogs and cats. He said it is a distress to have Bubbles separated from all of them.

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