A History of Poorly Behaved White House Pets

For the second time in two years, the First Dog has been banished from the White House due to ungentlemanly behavior. Commander Biden will no longer be living alongside his parents after reportedly biting multiple secret service agents. But it’s hardly the first time a presidential pet has conducted themselves in a matter unfit for office.

These are some of the other worst-behaved pets in White House history.

Andrew Jackson’s vulgar bird

One of the most popular pets among presidents are birds, and Andrew Jackson was no exception. Legend has it that Jackson’s pet parrot took a liking to profanity, often spewing slurs in the Oval Office. At one point, the parrot started mouthing off at the funeral of Jackson’s father and had to be removed from the premises. However, some argue that the tale is a myth.

Teddy Roosevelt’s bullish terrier

The title of Worst Behaved White House pet may go to Teddy Roosevelt’s beloved bull terrier, Pete. When the French ambassador paid a visit to the estate in 1906, the dog responded by first ripping the bureaucrat’s pants off and then chasing him up a tree.

A year later, Pete similarly chased down and mauled a young Navy clerk. The incident was serious enough that the man needed his wounds cauterized by a local physician. An account of the incident from 1907 noted that “Pete has not a particle of humor and little reverence for anybody except his master.” He was summarily sent to live on the family’s isolated farm.

Herbert Hoover’s creepy alligators

Though most famous for his Belgian shepherd King Tut, Hoover was also father to two alligators. They’d often slither and skulk around the grounds, and though there’s no record of them harming anyone, they certainly surprised their fair share of visitors.

Woodrow Wilson’s invasive sheep

Wilson had an assortment of pets, including several dogs, birds, and a cat. However, he also housed a family of sheep on the premises. It wasn’t long before they took to grazing on the prized White House lawn, chomping out patches of grass for breakfast every morning.

Wilson also owned a ram that chewed tobacco, though it doesn’t seem it ever spat at anyone.

Jimmy Carter’s aggressive dog

Veteran White House chief usher Gary J. Walters told The Washington Post that Jimmy Carter’s son, Chip, kept “a rather aggressive black dog” which bit staff, including himself, on many occasions. “No major injury,” Walters reported, “but I always carried a rolled-up newspaper with me when I went to their rooms.”

Bill Clinton’s hungry puppy

While Walters told WaPo that Clinton’s chocolate lab, Buddy, was nominally well-behaved, he recalled an occasion in which the pup almost ruined a Christmas gathering when he bolted for the dessert display. Clinton grabbed Buddy just in the nick of time, admonishing his pooch and saving the cakes from certain ruin.

George W. Bush’s brawling pooch

It seems the 43rd president’s dog Barney was a bit of a big-talking brawler. He once bit the finger of journalist Jonathan Decker in a 2008 on-camera attack. Another time, he went after a police dog. Bush made amends by inviting the police dogs and their human companions to the White House for a photo op.

Joe Biden’s repeat offenders

This week’s removal of First Dog Commander is hardly Joe and Jill Biden’s first tussle with an aggressive pet. The family’s pet, Major, was sent to live “a quieter life” after it was involved in several “biting incidents” with White House staff during its first few months in residence.

They then introduced their German shepherd Commander, but that story ended badly as well. Per TMZ, the Secret Service confirmed the two-year-old pup was involved in 11 separate biting episodes. According to the outlet, there have been additional incidents involving other White House staff, and workers at Biden’s private residence.

Biden’s press secretary said this was due to Commander feeling anxious with all of the guests coming in and out of the White House. As a result, “Commander is not presently on the White House campus while next steps are evaluated,” Elizabeth Alexander, Jill Biden’s communications director, said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

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