Who is covered by the “assistance animal” law?
The law applies to people with disabilities. Under this law, you have a disability if:
- You have a physical or mental impairment that interferes with a major life activity, and
- It is expected to last six months or more.
This definition includes people:
- With a record or history of an impairment or
- Who are perceived as having an impairment.
Maine also has a law about assistance animals. Maine law applies if you:
- Have a mental health diagnosis,
- Receive special education,
- Receive vocational rehabilitation,
- Receive related mental-health services, or
- Have any of the following conditions:
- missing limbs or vital organs;
- bipolar disorder;
- blindness or abnormal vision loss;
- cerebral palsy;
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;
- Crohn’s disease;
- cystic fibrosis;
- deafness or abnormal hearing loss;
- substantial disfigurement;
- heart disease;
- HIV or AIDS;
- kidney or renal diseases;
- major depressive disorder;
- intellectual disability;
- multiple sclerosis;
- muscular dystrophy;
- Parkinson's disease;
- pervasive developmental disorders;
- rheumatoid arthritis;
- schizophrenia; or
- acquired brain injury.
What does the law do?
If you are a person with a disability, your health care provider may say that you need an animal to help you. Health care providers include doctors, therapists and licensed social workers.
Assistance animals can be any animal. The only requirement is:
- They are medically necessary to help with the effects of a disability OR
- They are trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.
The animal does not have to take classes or be certified to be an assistance animal.
You have a dog that warns you if there’s smoke. The dog is an assistance animal if it really warns you of smoke, even if it hasn’t been trained to do that.
You can prove your animal is an assistance animal by showing what tasks it does, unless that would be dangerous. You can also ask people who have seen your animal work to prove the animal can do the task. You can share proof of training if your animal has been trained, but your landlord can't make you do this.
Other examples include:
- Seeing eye animal
- Seizure alert animal
- Emotional support animals
- Therapy animals
As a renter, you can have an assistance animal for a physical or mental disability. Your landlord must:
- Allow the animal, regardless of pet policy, breed, or weight
- Not charge you any pet deposit, even if other tenants must pay one
Note: This law only applies to housing. Assistance animals may not be brought into restaurants, stores, hotels, etc.
I think I qualify. How do I approach my landlord?
Give or send your landlord a letter explaining that you need an assistance 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. You do not need to give your diagnosis in your request or in the note from your healthcare provider.
Sample letter to your landlord
Sample letter from Health Care Provider
Informational Maine Human Rights Commission flier to send with your letters
What if my landlord won't accept my assistance 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 "intake form" - and PDF versions
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: 617-994-8200 or 1-800-827-5005
Online complaint form
You can also bring an action in court, but you should have a lawyer.
What else do I need to know?
Be careful! You need to understand the Federal and Maine laws about assistance animals before using this complaint form. Talk to a lawyer, if you can. Contact Pine Tree Legal Assistance for legal help.
The laws about assistance animals only apply to housing. If you need help outside of your home because of a disability you are eligible for a service dog. These dogs are trained to do work or tasks for a person with a disability. They can be brought into public spaces.
Read more about service animals and assistance animals at the Maine Human Right's Commission Website.
Read more about Fair Housing Protection for People with Disabilities.
The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.