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Master and Commander: Biden’s dog bit Secret Service agents 24 times

Joe Biden’s dog bit Secret Service agents on so many occasions that the president’s staff were forced to “adjust operational tactics” to keep themselves safe.

The highly-trained team, who are experts in hand-to-hand combat and selected from the US military elite, are ready to lay down their lives to keep their charge safe.

But in the case of the Commander, the German shepherd dog , they were forced to trade bulletproof vests for dog biscuits.

According to newly released documents, at least 24 incidents of biting took place at the White House and the president’s Delaware residence over a 10-month period – including one in which an agent required six stitches.

When the agent returned to duty they were given items for future “safety purposes” including pepper spray, a muzzle, and – in case of emergencies – dog treats.

In another incident the bite was so severe that blood spilled onto the floor of an area of the White House open to public tours, forcing it to be closed off briefly.

“The recent dog bites have challenged us to adjust our operational tactics when Commander is present – please give lots of room (staying a terrain feature away if possible),” a senior agent in charge of the Presidential Protection Division wrote in a June 2023 email.

The unnamed person, whose code name was blacked out in the document, warned agents “must be creative to ensure our own personal safety”.

Commander on a White House balcony in 2022 (AP)
Commander on a White House balcony in 2022 (AP)

The document was heavily redacted to protect the identities of Secret Service agents and their security tactics. It was released in response to a freedom of information request.

The biting incidents, which took place between October 2022 and July 2023, also recorded agents suffering bites on their wrist, forearm, elbow, waist, chest, thigh and shoulder.

These incidents did not include the 11 reported attack incidents in the White House last July and the document does not necessarily record all biting episodes.

The cache of emails not only recorded numerous incidents in sometimes vivid detail but also depicted the conversations among agents and officers who exchanged strategies on how to best avoid injury.

One individual narrowly escaped injury thanks to their ammunition pouch – the documents also contained a photograph of a torn shirt.

“I was in shock that the incident occurred,” a special agent wrote after he was attacked while holding open the door for the president on 2 October 2022. Commander attacked by grabbing the agent’s left arm and stood on his hind legs.

“He is literally my height standing,” the agent wrote. “After this I was concerned about him getting out of the residence or being out without a leash for others’ safety and mine.”

Another agent came away from an encounter with a severe injury. On 14 June 2023, the dog raced towards an agent and caused a “deep bite” on his left arm that required stitches.

“East Wing Tours were stopped for approximately 20 minutes due to blood from the incident being on the floors in the area of the Booksellers,” one of the halls in the White House, one document reported.

A month after the incident, another agent was bitten at the president’s home in Delaware and caused a “severe deep open wound”, and the agent “started to lose a significant amount of blood”, a message said.

“The president and first lady care deeply about the safety of those who work at the White House and those who protect them every day,” said Elizabeth Alexander, the communications director for Jill Biden.

“Despite additional dog training, leashing, working with veterinarians and consulting with animal behaviourists, the White House environment simply proved too much for Commander. Since the fall, he has lived with other family members.”

Commander was a gift to Mr Biden from his brother James in 2021. Commander is the second of Bidens’s dogs at the White House to display aggressive behaviour. Their first dog – another German shepherd named Major – was also sent to Delaware after exhibiting aggressive behaviour.