President Joe Biden’s dog, Commander, reportedly bit or attacked Secret Service agents as many as 10 times between the months of October 2022 and January 2023.
One incident involving the dog reportedly required a hospital visit for the Secret Service agent, according to records from the Department of Homeland Security that were released following a FOIA request by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch. Per the Associated Press:
On Nov. 3, 2022, a Secret Service official emailed colleagues that Commander had bitten a uniformed officer twice — on the upper right arm and thigh. Staff from the White House medical unit treated the officer and decided to have the individual taken to a hospital.
A captain of the Uniform Division emailed later that day that he had been advised that Commander was up to date on his vaccinations.
A note the following day added details about the attack, including that the officer who was bitten used a steel cart to protect himself from another attack. The officer later was placed on several days of restricted duty based on doctors’ advice.
Elizabeth Alexander, communications director for first lady Jill Biden, told the AP that the White House can be a “unique and often stressful environment” for pets and that the Biden family was “working through ways to make this situation better for everyone.”
“The president and first lady are incredibly grateful to the Secret Service and Executive Residence staff for all they do to keep them, their family and the country safe,” Alexander said.
The group said it filed suit after the agency, a division of DHS, “failed to respond adequately” to its request last December for records about biting incidents involving the purebred German shepherd. The group said it filed the request after receiving a tip about Commander’s behavior.
Commander is the second dog of Biden’s to behave aggressively, including biting Secret Service personnel and White House staff. They eventually sent the dog, a German shepherd named Major, to live with friends in Delaware after those incidents.
The White House and the Secret Service appeared to play down the situation on Tuesday, but the latest incidents raise questions about why the Bidens brought another German shepherd to the executive mansion and why the attacks continued.
Anthony Guglielmi, chief spokesperson for the Secret Service, said that the agency takes the “safety and wellbeing of our employees extremely seriously,” adding that they have been navigating how best to handle family pets.
“As such, we are aware of past incidents involving first-family pets and these instances were treated similarly to comparable workplace injuries, to include with relevant notifications and reporting procedures followed,” he said.
“While special agents and officers neither care for nor handle the first family’s pets, we continuously work with all applicable entities to minimize adverse impacts in an environment that includes pets,” Guglielmi added.
The chief White House groundskeeper typically takes care of the family pets.
This marks the second reported incident of a Biden family dog attacking Secret Service agents. In 2021, reports surfaced that the president’s then-dog Major (also a German Shepherd) had been involved in two major biting incidents. One year later, several Secret Service agents claimed that the White House lied about the incidents to minimize the impact.
Released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by Judicial Watch, the documents revealed that the Secret Service attempted to downplay events and even reprimanded one of the agents for detailing the attack, fearing it would upset the Biden family. In March 2021, White House press secretary Jen Psaki claimed that one dog attack occurred after Major was “surprised by an unfamiliar person.”
“The first family’s younger dog, Major, was surprised by an unfamiliar person and reacted in a way that resulted in a minor injury to the individual,” Psaki acknowledged at the time.
According to the unsealed documents, the bite occurred after the dog bit agents over eight consecutive days and the injuries were “severe” rather than minor.
“NO I didn’t surprise the dog doing my job by being at [redacted] as the press secretary just said! Now I’m pissed,” the agent reportedly wrote to a co-worker. The co-worker replied, “SMH. .. hope you didn’t get hurt to [sic] bad.”
Another message from a Secret Service employee referenced the bite, explaining that the “injury cannot be described in any other term than ‘severe’.”
The heavily redacted incident report said that the bite occurred at 7:00 a.m. in the White House residential area on the second floor near first lady Jill Biden’s office.
Without warning or provocation, Major barked loudly at [the agent] … and charged,” the report said. “Having no time to seek cover from the attack, [the agent] turned away from the dog as he bit into [redacted] right leg.”
David Cho, President Biden’s then-chief protective agent, wrote in an email later that day: “Major bit one of the agents this morning. The agent is ok, but does have bruising and a puncture.”
The agent was reportedly bitten by Major a second time. Photos of the injuries were redacted in the report except for one that showed the agent’s torn wool overcoat.