Wednesday, March 31, 2021

MAJOR UPDATES (Not A Pun): Does Zhou Baiden Face 'Major' Liability?

Yesterday I briefly wondered whether Zhou's dog 'Major' should be 'put down,' having bitten a second person. Have you been wondering about this issue, but were too lazy to research it? You'll still have to wonder, but Jonathan Turley clarifies some of the issues regarding dog biting--i.e., dogs biting people, not vice versa--in an article that was picked up by Zerohedge:

Major Liability? Biden's Dog Bites Another Employee After Returning From Delaware Seclusion

The traditional rule in tort law is that a dog is allowed "one free bite" before being classified as a "vicious animal." That's why I wondered whether 'Major'--having had his one free bite and gone on to become a serial biter--should now be put down. Of course, that's not the only remedy. There's also the question of civil--or even criminal--liability on the part of the dog's owner. Turley goes into the, um, ins and outs of all this, with particular reference to DC law.

The Baiden version of the most recent incident is that some was "nipped" by 'Major.' Turley observes that a nip is in the eye of the beholder, or owner, and goes on to clarify the "one free bite" rule:

The difference between “nipped” and “bitten” is that you are bitten by other people’s dogs. Your dog however only nips, which is somewhere on the spectrum between a lick and a complete devouring.

As noted earlier, there was always question whether Major was entitled to “one free bite.” 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. ... Accounts from the prior biting incident indicate that [Major] has been displaying aggressive behavior including barking and charging at White House staff and security. That could negate any need for an actual bite since it could be alleged that Major’s vicious propensity was known or should have been known to the Bidens.

Another issue arises under DC law--was 'Major' an "animal at large". Turley cites the relevant laws and explains:

Under Section 8-1808 states “No owner of an animal shall allow the animal to go at large.” The term “at large” is defined as in Section 8-1801(a)(1)(A) as “The term ‘animal at large’ means any animal found off the premises of its owner and neither leashed nor otherwise under the immediate control of a person capable of physically restraining it.”

Turley notes the issue of whether 'Major' has been "on the premises of its owner" while biting people, since this all occurred on White House property, which is Zhou's residence. Surprisingly, however, he doesn't go into the question of the status of the White House as a work site, in which employees and/or contractors are invited onto the premises. In fact, he argues:

The more natural reading is that the rule does not apply to bites on the premises of an owner.

I find it difficult to believe that a dog owner has no liability for his dog's bites when the biting is of persons who are employees who have not explicitly accepted the risk of being bitten by a known aggressive animal. That just doesn't seem reasonable to me. Is a work office attached to or incorporated into a residence really to be construed as "premises of the the owner" when people are being bitten?

Turley does recognize the difficulty in this and so concludes:

The question then becomes if there is any liability for bites on the premises of an owner. Presumably an owner can still be negligent in failing to take reasonable measures to protect licensees or invitees on the property. Thus, the Bidens could still be sued for negligence failure to take reasonable steps after learning of the propensity of Major to bite.

To me, it's an outrage. I'd sue his ass if I were an employee at the White House.

UPDATE 1: Commenter Rich offers some perceptive observations, below. An article at Fox also goes into a bit more depth than Turley offered, with some very pointed remarks. Of course it would be easy to put the blame for this dog-bites-man-and-keeps-biting story on Zhou's dementia leading to bad judgment. To me, and YMMV, I put this down to typical bad behavior by privileged liberals. I'm sorry, but in my experience these types of liberals tend not to be very polite or considerate people. Just as 'Major' has a history, Zhou himself also has a history that's hard to ignore in this context:

Biden should keep dog Major away from people after 2nd bite: lawyers

President Baiden has a duty to keep his German Shepherd, Major, away from people after the dog bit another employee at the White House on Monday, personal injury lawyer Davis Cooper told Fox News.

"My legal recommendation to them would be to keep that dog completely isolated or away from anyone because he’s a known danger," said Cooper, chairman of D.C.-based Cooper Law Partners. "I believe it’s their duty to protect people from their dog."


Cooper told Fox News that an overwhelming environment like the White House is not a "legal defense that would carry any weight" in court.

Washington, D.C., law is strict on dog owners who know their dog has had at least one biting incident in the past.

"The one feature of Washington, D.C. dog bite law, and it’s relevant to the Major Biden story, it’s called the one-bite rule," Cooper said. "If the dog bites someone after it has already shown that it will bite someone, then there is presumed negligence on the owner of the dog."

D.C. law defines a "potentially dangerous dog" as a dog that "without provocation, chases or menaces a person or domestic animal in an aggressive manner, causing an injury to a person or domestic animal that is less severe than a serious injury." Dangerous dogs can be put down by the city under certain circumstances.

Monday’s incident was the second time Major bit someone at the White House in less than a month. On March 8, Major sank his teeth into a Secret Service employee, who also required attention from the White House medical unit. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki referred to that incident as "minor." 


"Typically homeowners insurance covers dog bite injury, and it’s weird — I don't know what kind of homeowners insurance comes with the White House," he said.

Of course, one thing sets this dog bite story apart from the rest: the dog's owner is the president and enjoys special forms of legal immunity.

"No one can prosecute the president for a dog bite or anything else," Stephen Caramenico of Malloy Law Offices told Fox News. "It comes down to just being a competent dog owner because you do have something that has the ability to harm people, so how do you control that animal, who do you let them around?"

Large dogs can be dangerous like firearms or vehicles, Caramenico said. 

Three comments, the first of which follows on Rich's observation. I would argue that the White House is primarily a place of employment. The living quarters for the president and his family are there only because the duties of the presidency require a president to be present more often than not--not as a perquisite of the job, per se. Living accommodations are provided for the sake of the job. That would be my argument, anyway.

Secondly, Caramenico's observation that this all boils down to "just being a competent dog owner." If neither Zhou Baiden nor his caretaker are competent to own a dog--which seems pretty obvious--could that be used as evidence for purposes of 25A? Pretty sad that this is what America has fallen to.

Third, there's another consideration, and one that I haven't seen mentioned so far. If you do a search like I did on "can pets be therapeutic for dementia sufferers", you'll come up with results like these. Perhaps there's a reason why Zhou's handlers are so intent on keeping 'Major' in the White House close to Zhou:

UPDATE 2: As if to confirm that Zhou and his caretaker are not competent enough for dog ownership--unless this is somehow metaphorical or a parable of some sort:

Biden dog poops on White House floor

'There was dog poo on the floor' after Major and Champ were in the area


  1. I may be an idiot when it comes to the law - although I am sure I have broken some - but can the President actually be classified as the 'owner' of the White House? They and their family are more like long term residents or guests. We the people 'own' the WH, as it is staffed and run by our taxes. We allow the first family to stay rent free. We also allow public tours to be run through the WH, so who is liable if a tour guide or a tourist is bitten by said dog? Surely someone must be held to account, no? We are, of course, talking about a Democratic Administration so there will never be an accounting, regardless of what Mr. Turley knows about the law.

    1. Good point, Rich. A perfect illustration of why, in the law, multiple opinions and perspectives are almost always advisable.

  2. Couldn't Baiden part with some of his 'hard earned cash' from, say the Ukraine, and get Champ and Major properly trained? I sure hope Baiden doesn't end up sticking us with his dog training bill.

  3. Major needs a new home. Having had three large dogs, Major sounds like he needs less stimulus and strong constant training, something it appears he is not receiving.

  4. "'There was dog poo on the floor' after Major and Champ were in the area"
    Are they sure it was "dog feces"? One of the very sad characteristics of Dementia is the tendency to just drop trow and deposit the load whenever the urge is felt.

    Regarding those big arse dogs. UCLA did research a few years back where they reasoned that the carbon footprint of all the pets (cats and dogs) in the U.S. was equal to the the annual carbon footprint of 13.6 million cars. Funny, didn't see anything about euthanizing all those pets in the New Green Deal or Joe's infrastructure deal.

    1. From that article: "Maybe we could all have little ponies." But wouldn't they be emitting lots of methane, like cows?

    2. Why not unicorns that just emit rainbows?

    3. lol @ ponies...

      I've been bitten by more ponies than I have dogs! Ponies are the devil's spawn and the equestrian version of hell!