We previously discussed the controversy over President Biden’s prior German shepherd, Major, biting people at the White House. Now it appears that Major’s replacement, Commander, has continued to nosh on Secret Service agents. The question is not the responsibility of Commander but his master in this pattern of dog attacks.
In the prior dog attacks, President Biden effectively called an agent a liar in allegations of being attacked in the White House. Major was eventually sent to the farm and the media, again, did not press the White House on the lack of transparency over the long pattern of dog attacks.
Major was then replaced by another photo-ready dog, Commander. These dogs are not only featured often in home shots of the Bidens, they actually warranted Christmas stockings over Navy, the granddaughter that Joe and Jill Biden refuse to acknowledge. It turns out the vicious dog is undeniably a Biden but not their granddaughter.
What is striking is the response of the White House. Elizabeth Alexander, who serves as communications director for the first lady, blamed the “unique and often stressful environment for family pets.” White House Spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre repeated that defense that Commander was simply dealing with the stress of office.
John Adams even had a dog named “Satan” who did not have the record of the Biden dogs.
There were presidential dogs with bad demeanors, but they were quickly removed. For example, Carter’s Border collie Grits just snapped at a couple visitors and was sent back to Amy Carter to avoid any problems.
Under the common law, the Bidens could claim that Major and Commander were entitled to “one free bite.” They are well beyond that threshold.
The “one free bite rule” is a commonly misunderstood torts doctrine — suggesting that you are not subject to strict liability until after the first time your dog bites someone. In fact, you are subject to strict liability whenever you know or have reason to know of the vicious propensity of your animal. That can be satisfied by conduct such as frequent snapping or aggressive behavior.
However, even with Major, the Bidens failed to protect agents and others. Now they have shown the same failure with Commander.
Indeed, a family with this history of dog attacks (with successive pets) would face a highly skeptical, if not hostile, court in a tort action.
The Biden case is more analogous to the infamous case from San Francisco involving lawyers and dog owners Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel. They were found both criminally and civilly liable after their two Presa Canario dogs killed apartment neighbor Diane Whipple. Various neighbors complained about the dogs. The dogs had not bitten anyone but were known to be aggressive. That was sufficient.
In one account involving Commander, an agent had to defend himself from the dog with a chair. That was after prior biting incidents. As many as ten people were either bitten or threatened by the dog.
In other words, the Bidens would likely be viewed as knowing the vicious propensity of Commander and subject to strict liability. They showed a pattern of knowledge and a lack of precautions not just with regard to this dog but all of their dogs.
For Secret Service agents, one could understand if they felt that they were high-priced chew toys for the Biden pets.