The Secret Service is a law enforcement agency that is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security. One of their best-known duties is protecting the President of the United States and their immediate family. They will also protect former Presidents, unless and until the latter decline their services. The Secret Service will continue protecting a former President’s children until they reach the age of 16. The Secret Service will also offer its services to major Presidential candidates who appear to have a good shot at winning the election.
What about First Pets? Do the President’s bodyguards also protect their dog?
Technically, members of the Secret Service are not responsible for any pets belonging to the First Family. The key word is “pets,” for many Presidents have had pets besides the expected dogs and cats. The tradition of keeping pets also goes all the way back to George Washington, who owned several dogs, some horses, a donkey, and a parrot. Most Presidents have kept some type of pet. In fact, President Trump is the first President in over 100 years to not have a pet.
In any case, Secret Service agents are not responsible for protecting the First Pet or taking care of it in any way. That doesn’t mean, however, that some agents won’t, for instance, walk the First Dog, especially if they like the animal.
For example, Secret Service agents were often seen walking President Obama’s Portuguese Water Dogs. One likely reason is that President Obama would start to walk the dogs himself only to get called away by somebody who needed to speak to him. The Secret Service agents had the choice of either walking the dogs themselves or calling another member of the White House staff to do the job. If they liked the dogs, they would often walk them.
Similarly, Secret Service agents working for President Reagan would often exercise his dogs for him when the former President was under the weather and couldn’t do so himself.
On a more serious note, Secret Service agents do keep an eye on First Pets, especially ones, like dogs, that have near-constant access to the President. They know that a terrorist or assassin could hypothetically plant explosives or poisons on the dog to attack the President. During World War II, the Soviets used dogs as anti-tank weapons by planting explosives on them and detonating them near enemy tanks. So, unfortunately, there is a precedent for using animals as weapons. Consequently, Secret Service agents will keep an eye on a First Family’s dog to make sure it doesn’t wander into an unsecured location.