Who is covered by the “service animal” law?
The law applies to people with disabilities. If you have a physical or mental impairment which interferes with a major life activity and which is expected to last six months or more, you have a disability. This includes people:
- with a record or history of such an impairment or
- who are perceived as having such an impairment.
In addition, the Maine state law applies if you:
- have a mental health diagnosis,
- receive special education,
- receive vocational rehabilitation,
- receive related mental-health services, or
- have: missing limbs, hands, feet or vital organs; alcoholism; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; bipolar disorder; blindness or abnormal vision loss; cancer; cerebral palsy; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Crohn’s disease; cystic fibrosis; deafness or abnormal hearing loss; diabetes; substantial disfigurement; epilepsy; heart disease; HIV or AIDS; kidney or renal diseases; lupus; major depressive disorder; mastectomy; intellectual disability; multiple sclerosis; muscular dystrophy; paralysis; Parkinson's disease; pervasive developmental disorders; rheumatoid arthritis; schizophrenia; or acquired brain injury.
What does the law provide?
If you are a person with a disability, your health care provider (like a doctor, therapist, or a licensed social worker) may say that you need an animal to help you. These types of animals can be service animals or assistance animals.
If you need to have an animal for assistance (for physical or mental health reasons), your landlord has to allow the animal, even if there is a “no pets” policy. There can be no special rules, such as weight limits or breed restrictions, that apply to service animals. You cannot be charged any additional fees such as a pet deposit, but you can be charged for any damage caused by the animal.
An animal does not need to take classes or be certified to be a service or assistance animal. It just has to do the task you keep the animal for. For example, if you have a dog that warns you if there’s smoke, the dog qualifies as a service animal if it actually warns you of smoke, even if it hasn’t been trained. You can prove your animal is a service animal by showing what tasks it does, unless that would be dangerous. You can also ask people who have seen your animal perform to prove the animal can do the task. You are welcome to share any certification of training if your animal has been trained, but your landlord cannot require you to do this.
I think I qualify. How do I approach my landlord?
Give or send your landlord a letter explaining that you require a service animal. If your disability cannot be seen, you must attach a note from your health care provider saying that you have a disability and that you need an animal to help you. Your request and the health care provider’s statement do not have to give your diagnosis.
Sample letter to your landlord (This form is interactive; fill it out online, then save or print.)
Informational Maine Human Rights Commission flier to send with your letters
What else do I need to know?
Be careful! You need to understand the Federal and Maine laws about service animals before using this form. And it is best to talk to a lawyer, if you can, before taking this step. For legal help contact Pine Tree Legal Assistance.
What if my landlord refuses to accept my service animal?
You can file a complaint with either the Maine Human Rights Commission, or with HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). Pine Tree Legal Assistance may be able to help you file a complaint.
The Human Rights Commission is located in Augusta:
Maine Human Rights Commission
51 State House Station
Augusta ME 04333-0051
Online housing "intake form"
HUD's regional office is in Boston:
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
10 Causeway St. Room 321
Boston MA 02222-1092
Telephone: 617-994-8300 or 1-800-827-5005
Online complaint form
You can also bring an action in court, but you should have a lawyer.
November 2013, partially updated July 2016