WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden‘s dog Commander bit or otherwise attacked Secret Service personnel at least 10 times between October 2022 and January, including one incident that required a hospital visit by the injured law enforcement officer, according to records from the Department of Homeland Security.
The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch on Tuesday released nearly 200 pages of Secret Service records that it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. 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.
Elizabeth Alexander, communications director for first lady Jill Biden, said in an email that the White House complex is a “unique and often stressful environment” for family pets and that the Biden family was “working through ways to make this situation better for everyone.”
Anthony Guglielmi, chief spokesperson for the Secret Service, said in a separate email that his agency has for the past several presidents “navigated how best to operate around family pets and these incidents are no exception. We take the safety and wellbeing of our employees extremely seriously.”
The Secret Service provides security protection for the president and his family, and scores of its officers are posted around the executive mansion and its sprawling grounds.
Biden received Commander in December 2021 as a gift from his brother James. The records released cover a fraction of his year and a half as a presidential pet. The family also has a cat, Willow.
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.
Alexander said the Bidens have been working with the Secret Service and the White House residence staff “on additional leashing protocols and training” for Commander, as well as establishing designated areas where he can run around for exercise.
“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 added.
Guglielmi said Secret Service employees are encouraged to report job-related injuries to their immediate supervisors for appropriate documentation.
“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.
Commander is often seen being led around by the White House’s chief groundskeeper.
Sara Amundson, chief government relations officer of the Humane Society of the United States and president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said dog bites can happen for a variety of reasons and the odds of it happening can be reduced by understanding the signals a dog sends when it is in an uncomfortable situation and removing whatever is causing fear or stress.
But sometimes even changing a dog’s environment may not be enough to keep them from biting.
“In those situations, seeking out the help of a professional trainer with experience in dog aggression and who utilizes humane methods is critical,” Amundson said in an email.
The New York Post was first to report on Commander’s biting incidents.
Suggest a Correction