Welcome to service dog laws in Maine
Did you know that, according to Maine.gov, from 2017 through 2021, just over 211,000 people with one or more disabilities lived in Maine? That’s equal to almost 16 percent of its civilian population of 1.3 million. That’s a lot of people, some of whom use a service dog to help with daily living and tasks.
Service dogs are a unique phenomenon; specially trained animals that help people living with disabilities. In Maine, there are multiple federal as well as State laws that govern the use of these special animals depending on various contexts (housing, employment, public access, etc.) In this article, we’ll dive into these various service dog laws relevant to Maine, and attempt to make some kind of sense to it all. Let’s go.
Snapshot of various service dog laws in Maine
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- The Fair Housing Act
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA)
- The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986
- Maine Revised Statutes
General rules for service animals in Maine
Generally speaking, The Maine Human Rights Act requires that businesses and other places of public accommodation allow the use of service animals by people living with disabilities. While there are some exceptions – such as religious organizations and sterile hospital environments like the operating room – the general rule is one of inclusion, requiring that the business or public accommodation allow the service animal to be present.
Examples of places of public accommodation (PAs)
Places of public accommodation are required to allow service dogs; basically anywhere that the general public is invited or allowed to go. According to the Maine Revised Statutes, these are defined as public or private facilities whose operations fall within at least one of the following categories:
- An inn, hotel, motel or other place of lodging
- A restaurant, eating house, bar, tavern, buffet, saloon, soda fountain, ice cream parlor or other establishment serving or selling food or drink
- A motion picture house, theater, concert hall, stadium, roof garden, airdrome or other place of exhibition or entertainment
- An auditorium, convention center, lecture hall or other place of public gathering
- A bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, garage, gasoline station or other sales or rental establishment
- A laundromat, dry cleaner, bank, barber shop, beauty shop, travel service, shoe repair service, funeral parlor, gas station, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office, professional office of a health care provider, hospital, dispensary, clinic, bathhouse or another service establishment
- All public conveyances operated on land or water or in the air as well as a terminal, depot or other station used for specified public transportation
- A museum, library, gallery or other place of public display or collection
- A park, zoo, amusement park, race course, skating rink, fair, bowling alley, golf course, golf club, country club, gymnasium, health spa, shooting gallery, billiard or pool parlor, swimming pool, seashore accommodation or boardwalk or another place of recreation, exercise or health
- A nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate or postgraduate school or another place of education
- A day care center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter, food bank, adoption agency or other social service center establishment
- Public elevators of buildings occupied by 2 or more tenants or by the owner and one or more tenants
- A municipal building, courthouse, town hall or other establishment of the State or a local government
- Any establishment that in fact caters to, or offers its goods, facilities, or services to, or solicits or accepts patronage from, the general public
Service dog definitions
Be aware that there are multiple service dog definitions, depending on the context. Let’s go through the various definitions right now.
Maine State Service dog definition for public accommodations / public access rights
According to both the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) laws for public access rights as well as Maine State laws:
A service animal is a DOG that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. Other species of animals are NOT considered service animals in the context of PAs.Maine State – Service Animal Pamphlet
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) definition of a service animal for public access rights
Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act.Americans with Disabilities Act – Requirements
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) Definition of Assistance Animal
The federal Fair Housing Act is in place to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability and covers all types of housing transactions, including the landlord/tenant relationship. The FHA (Fair Housing Act) defines persons with a disability to mean those people with mental or physical impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities. Interestingly, emotional support animals are included in the FHA’s definition of “assistance animals.” This is contrary to the definition of service animals for public access rights.
An assistance animal is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability. An assistance animal is not a pet.U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development
Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA) Definition of Assistance Animal for Housing Only
This Maine-specific definition was added to the Maine Human Rights Act in September 2016 and is meant to clarify what animals must be allowed in housing as opposed to public accommodations.
For housing purposes only, an assistance animal is an animal (not necessarily a dog) that is either:
- Determined necessary to mitigate the effects of a mental or physical disability by a physician, psychologist, physician assistant, nurse practitioner or licensed social worker
- Or is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a physical or mental disability
This may include animals that provide emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship related to an invisible disability. Invisible disabilities may include things like depression, anxiety, and certain phobias. Assistance animals for housing do not always have any special training to perform tasks that help people with disabilities. The disability is the required component; an animal may provide benefits by its presence alone.
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) Definition of Service Animal
Airlines must legally accommodate the needs of air travelers with disabilities. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) is a law that makes it illegal for airlines to discriminate against passengers because of their disability. The ACAA has its own definition of a service dog, which will be relevant whenever someone with a disability will be flying with their animal.
A service animal means a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Animal species other than dogs, emotional support animals, comfort animals, companionship animals, and service animals in training are not service animals.U.S. Department of Transportation
Examples of service dog “work” or “tasks”
- Helping someone with a visual impairment in navigation
- Ensuring someone with autism doesn’t wander and become lost
- Alerting a person with hearing loss to the presence of people or important sounds
- Assisting someone during a seizure
- Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to someone with a mobility disability or condition
- Reminding someone with an intellectual disability to take a medication at a certain time
- Helping a person with a psychiatric or neurological disability by preventing or interrupting problem behaviors
- Interrupting a nightmare for someone living with PTSD
- Many many more
- Read more on Total K9 Focus: The Giant List of Service Dog Tasks
What businesses and other public accommodations (PAs) need to know
What businesses may ask
A business, public accommodation, or another “public entity” as they are known in the Americans with Disabilities Act may ask only ask the following two questions to someone in order to determine if a dog is a service animal. And, these questions may only be asked if the reason for the service animal is not obvious.
Many disabilities are obvious, but there are many invisible disabilities, too. Just because someone appears “normal” doesn’t mean they don’t have a disability.
- Is the animal required because of a
- What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
Businesses must not…
- Ask about the nature/extent of the person’s disability
- Require documentation showing that the dog has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal
- Ask that the animal demonstrate its task or work
- Charge a fee because of the service animal
- Separate or segregate the person because of their animal
It is a violation of the MHRA for a business or public accommodation to request or require documentation proving that an animal is a service animal. Additionally, these are not required under the Americans with Disabilities Act for public access rights.
Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.
There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.Americans with Disabilities Act – Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you ask for proof of a service dog in Maine?
Businesses and other public entities in Maine may ask a person with a service dog if the animal is required because of a disability, and what work or task(s) the animal has been trained to do. Asking for details about a disability, or requesting documentation or demonstration of the task or work is prohibited.
Are service dogs allowed in restaurants in Maine?
Yes. Service dogs are allowed to go nearly anywhere the public is allowed or invited to go, and this includes malls, hotels, hospitals, doctor’s offices, movie theatres, and restaurants, just to name a few. Service dogs may only be excluded if they are causing a direct threat to the health and safety of others.
How do I make my dog a service animal in Maine?
There are various paths to training a service dog, and it can be a bit of a process. Speak with your doctor to ensure a service dog is right for you. In terms of training, you could train the dog yourself (this is allowed under the Americans with Disabilities Act), get help from a dog trainer, have a professional service dog training organization assist you or use any combination of these options.
Do you have to register a service dog in Maine?
No. Folks who have service dogs do not need to register their service dog in Maine simply because it’s a service dog if that makes any sense. Service dogs are, however, not exempt from local dog licensing laws that apply to all dogs for the purposes of finding missing dogs and being able to reunite them with their owner. Legitimate service dog registration and certification are not a thing. Be aware of scam websites online, attempting to sell paperwork to people who don’t know any better. Read more on our blog: Legitimate Service Dog Registration – Fact Check.
Can a landlord deny a service dog in Maine?
A landlord may only deny a service dog (known as an “Assistance dog” for housing situations) for particular reasons. These include:
- If it is a direct threat to the health or safety of others
- If it would result in substantial physical damage to the property of others
- If it substantially interferes with the reasonable enjoyment of the housing by others
Otherwise, landlords may not deny an assistance animal for no good reason.
What are the rules for emotional support animals in Maine?
Federally speaking, the Fair Housing Act is the only Act that includes emotional support animals in its definition of “assistance animal” for reasonable accommodation housing requests for people with disabilities. In Maine, ESAs can be excluded from public places such as restaurants and movie theatres, and malls, and also excluded from flying in an airplane cabin, although they may still travel on planes as a pet. Read more on our blog: Emotional Support Animal Laws in Maine or Emotional Support Animals – The Ultimate Guide.
Are dogs allowed in grocery stores in Maine?
Only service dogs are allowed in grocery stores in Maine. Maine has a law prohibiting animals from entering a store where food is sold for human consumption or into a restaurant where food is prepared and served on the premises. You can find the law here: Maine Legislature.