Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the purpose of the Animal Welfare Program?

The primary purpose of the Animal Welfare Program is to ensure that animals in Maine are humanely and properly treated. The Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has developed, implemented and administered a comprehensive program to uphold the animal welfare laws through communication, education and enforcement.

How do I report an animal cruelty or neglect complaint?

Call your local law enforcement or animal control officer first. They may be able to respond much quicker than a humane agent can.

The Animal Welfare Program’s business hours are 7:30am – 4:30pm Monday through Friday and may be reached by the following manner:

Toll Free Phone Number: 1-877-269-9200
Phone Number: (207) 287-3846
Email: animal.welfare@maine.gov

Who do I call if the animal cruelty complaint is an emergency and it is not during business hours?

Call your local law enforcement or animal control officer first.
If you need an agent after hours, Please call the Orono Barracks of the State Police at (207) 866-2121 and they will contact an Animal Welfare Program representative.

How is the Animal Welfare Program funded?

The majority of funding for the Animal Welfare Program comes from the licensing of dogs and various facilities such as animal shelters, boarding kennels, breeding kennels, pet shops, and research facilities, pet and livestock food registration, Tax check off, and the Animal Welfare License plates. AWP does not operate with money from the general fund.

How many employees does the Animal Welfare Program have?

There is a Director, Veterinarian, 5 District Humane Agents, and a Secretary Associate.

How many complaints of animal cruelty or neglect are investigated yearly?

AWP receives anywhere from 500 to 800 complaints every year.  However in Maine, other agencies including municipal Animal Control Officers (ACOs), sheriff departments and the State Police also handle animal welfare complaints. Unfortunately the total number of animal welfare cases is higher than the number handled by the Animal Welfare Program. Many times the staff of the Animal Welfare Program cooperates with other agencies on specific cases.

What species of animal does the Animal Welfare Program receive the most complaints on?


The office receives many complaints, primarily involving domestic animals such as dogs, cats, and horses.  The program also responds to complaints involving exotics and livestock.

Other than investigation of animal cruelty, abuse or neglect what other responsibilities does the Animal Welfare Program have?

Other responsibilities of the AWP are to…

  • Inspect and license boarding kennels, breeding kennels, animal shelters, pet shops and research facilities
  • Implement and administer the dog-licensing program with the municipalities.
  • Implement and administer the On Line dog-licensing program.
  • Implement and administer the AWP sponsored “Help Fix ME” spay/neuter program for low-income dog and cat owners.
  • Implement and administer the Animal Control Officer basic training and certification.
  • Partner in the State Rabies Working Group.
  • Educate and assist with disaster planning for both shelters and pet owners.
  • Create and present Humane Education to all age levels.
  • Work with Animal Welfare Council, Town Clerks Association and the Maine Veterinarian Medical Association to update or initiate legislation regarding the Animal Welfare Laws and Regulations.
  • Partner with nonprofit animal shelters to provide immediate shelter of rescued animals from abuse or neglect situations.

Are copies of the investigative reports and files available to the public?

The disposition of closed cases, unless sealed by the courts, is available to the public. However, M.R.S.A. Title 16 §614 forbids the release of names or any other identifying information on persons providing information pertaining to criminal or civil cruelty to animals to the Department of Agriculture. This information is confidential and may not be disseminated. Information cannot be released on active or continuing investigations.

What is the difference between a State Humane Agent and an Animal Control Officer?

A State Humane Agent is employed by the State of Maine. As a state employee a State Humane Agent’s primary responsibility is to enforce the animal cruelty statues in Title 7 and Title 17. Animal Control Officers are employed by a municipality and are not state employees. The ACO’s primary responsibility is to enforce the municipal animal control duties in Title 7 and Title 17.

How many Animal Control Officers are there?

Each of the 496 municipalities in the state is required to employ an animal control officer. However many ACO’s are employed by more than one town which results in over 300 animal control officers throughout the state.

What jurisdiction does the Animal Welfare Program have over animal control officers?

The Animal Welfare Program is responsible to provide basic training and certification to animal control officers. The Animal Welfare Program does not participate in the hiring of or personnel issues concerning ACO’s. The employing town is responsible for the performance of the animal control officer.

Does the Animal Welfare Program have the authority to hire, terminate, or discipline a local animal control officer?

No. As employees of a town, only the town may hire, terminate or discipline an animal control officer.

If a member of the public wishes to file a complaint against an Animal Control Officer or a State Humane Agent how is that done?

Any complaint concerning an animal control officer should be put in writing and directed to the staff of the town that employs them. Most animal control officers report either to the Town Clerk or the police department but this varies from town to town. Any complaint concerning a State Humane Agent should be directed to the Department of Agriculture at (207) 287-3871.

Why should I license my dog?

Dog licensing has been an important part of combating the spread of rabies in the United States. The fee that you pay goes toward helping fund your animal control program and the animal welfare program. The tag your dog wears helps to identify the dog in the case that it gets lost.

When should I license my dog?

You may purchase a license for the upcoming year beginning on October 15th. The deadline to purchase your dog's license is January 31. After January 31, a late fee of $25 is incurred.

Do I have to License my Cat?

There is no requirement to license a cat; however cats are required to have a current rabies vaccination. All dogs and cats in the State of Maine are required to have current rabies shots administered by a licensed veterinarian.