WASHINGTON — The Bidens’ 3-year-old German shepherd Major was involved in an incident Monday in which he was “surprised by an unfamiliar person and reacted in a way that resulted in a minor injury to the individual,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.
The White House medical unit handled the incident, she said, adding that “no further treatment was needed.” She declined to say whether a Secret Service agent was involved in the incident.
Major and the first family’s older German shepherd, Champ, were sent to the Bidens’ Wilmington, Delaware, home and are being watched by family friends, which Psaki said was planned because first lady Jill Biden is traveling this week.
“It had been previously planned already for the dogs to be cared for by family friends in Delaware during Dr. Biden’s travels to military bases this week,” she said at the White House briefing. “She has a three-day trip this week, and the dogs will return to the White House soon.”
Psaki noted that the dogs “are still getting acclimated and accustomed to their new surroundings and new people.”
The press secretary said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that it’s typical for the dogs to be in Delaware when Jill Biden is traveling. The first lady is in Washington state as part of a West Coast trip to tour military bases and meet with service members’ families and is not expected to return until Wednesday.
The Bidens adopted Major from the Delaware Humane Association in 2018 after he and five other puppies were exposed to a toxic substance, and he’s the first shelter dog to live in the White House. The Bidens got Champ as a puppy in 2008 before they moved into the vice president’s official residence at the Naval Observatory.
Both dogs have been seen off-leash with the Bidens outside the White House, and President Joe Biden recently noted that the canines have walk-in privileges to the Oval Office.
Jill Biden has said she plans on adding a cat to the roster of first pets, but Psaki said at the briefing Tuesday she didn’t have an update on the feline front. “Today’s a good day for the cat. I don’t have any update on the cat. We know the cat will break the internet, but I don’t have any update on its status,” she said.
Major’s not the only German shepherd with that name to have faced biting accusations in the White House.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s dog Major “was known to chase White House maids to the point that they had to use their brooms and dust mops to keep him at bay,” according to the Presidential Pet Museum.
That Major, a former police dog, nearly caused an international incident when British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald visited the White House during FDR’s first year in office.
“Major’s attack on the ministerial trousers was so vigorous that MacDonald’s trousers were nearly ripped off, and a replacement pair had to be found so that he could decently exit the presidential residence,” author Stanley Coren wrote in his book, “The Pawprints of Human History.”
MacDonald wasn’t the previous Major’s only high-profile victim. Former first daughter Margaret Truman wrote in her book “White House Pets” that Major chomped the leg of Sen. Hattie Caraway, the first woman elected to the Senate, that same year.
After biting a third unidentified person, Major was for a time “chained to the doghouse.”
Major, Coren wrote, was subsequently “banished to FDR’s mansion in Hyde Park.”
Rebecca Shabad is a congressional reporter for NBC News, based in Washington.
Shannon Pettypiece is the senior White House reporter for NBCNews.com.
Dareh Gregorian is a politics reporter for NBC News.
Peter Alexander, Kelly O’Donnell and Geoff Bennett