Disability Services Center

Service Animals and Assistance Animals

Service Animals

Image of Service Dog Walking with Man and Cane

Service animals are animals that provide assistance to individuals with disabilities. Service animals are dogs that are professionally trained to perform specific tasks for an individual.  When you see a service animal at USM or in the community, here are some tips to guide your interaction:

  • Speak to the person first.  Remember the dog is working.
  • Never touch a service animal without asking first and never feed the animal.
  • Recognize that the person and the animal are a team and that engaging with the animal disrupts their working relationship.
  • Do not ask the individual personal questions related to their disability or their service animal.

Need to learn more about interacting with a service dog?  Please visit the Pacer Center to view an informative handout on service dog ettiquette.

A summary of Maine law related to service animals is available from the Office of the Maine Attorney General.

Additional information related to service animals and housing is available from the Maine Human Rights Commission.

Still have questions?  Visit the U.S. Department of Justice FAQ about service animals and the ADA.

Want to learn more about the difference between service animals and ESAs here at USM? We have a Fast Facts handout available in PDF and Word versions. 

As always, if you have additional questions or concerns, please contact our office at (207) 780-4706 or dsc-usm@maine.edu.

Assistance Animals

Image of Emotional Assistance Bunny

An “Assistance Animal” (sometimes referred to as emotional support or therapy animal) is a term that the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) uses to cover any animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.   It is typically an animal selected to play an integral part of a person's treatment process. It is not a pet.  The animal must demonstrate a good temperament and reliable, predictable behavior. An assistance animal is prescribed to an individual with a disability by a healthcare or mental health professional.  An assistance animal may be incorporated in a treatment process to assist in alleviating the symptoms of that individual's disability. This treatment occurs within the person's residence and, therefore, may be considered for access to university housing.

The question in determining if an Assistance Animal will be allowed in University housing is whether or not the Assistance Animal is necessary to afford the individual an equal opportunity to use and enjoy University housing.  If it is determined that that animal is necessary for University housing, an Assistance Animal, as defined above, is not permitted in other areas of the University (e.g. dining facilities, libraries, academic buildings, athletic buildings, classrooms, labs, individual centers, etc.).

For additional information please review the Assistance Animal Policy and Procedure Guide. To request an application, please contact the Disability Services Center staff at dsc-usm@maine.edu or (207) 780-4706.