Thinking of adopting a dog in Maine? Awesome! We’re obviously big fans of pets and their owners, and we like helping out however we can.
To that end, we’ve created this guide to adopting your new friend. From the initial search to the freedom ride, here’s how to adopt a dog in the Pine Tree State.
Adoption is one of the best ways to bring a new pet into your home. It saves the life of an at-risk animal and helps shelters and rescues do their very important work. And their work never stops—the ASPCA estimates that 3.3 million dogs find themselves in rescues every year. Adopting even one allows staff and volunteers to help other homeless animals, and your adoption fee funds their mission.
We recommend that adopters start by looking at shelters in their area. You’ll find a list of rescues across the state below. You can also simply search your county name plus “dog adoption” online. Or, if you’d rather maximize your time, head to Petfinder.com or Adopt-A-Pet. Some rescues upload their available pets on these websites, allowing you to look at dogs from multiple shelters at once.
As you’re browsing, be sure to read the shelter-provided descriptions in addition to looking at the dog’s pictures. Rescue staff want to make sure you adopt the perfect dog for your lifestyle, so they’ll include information about the dog’s temperament, health, lifestyle needs, and more when available.
You can also search for a specific dog breed. Check out the American Kennel Club website for details on what separates, for example, a yellow Lab from a Golden Retriever. While your pet will have its own unique temperament, understanding a dog’s breed can help you determine if you’re able to support its grooming, exercise, dietary, and medical needs.
Banned breeds in Maine
Maine state law bans breed-specific legislation. This means that no city, town, or county can create laws banning certain breeds of dogs. That said, if you’ve dreamed of a pit bull or Doberman pinscher all your life, you should be aware that private entities can still ban certain breeds from their properties. Check your lease or homeowners association records to make sure you can adopt the dog breed you want.
The adoption process in Maine
Every shelter has its own adoption process. Some do same-day adoptions, meaning you can go to a rescue, find and meet with a dog, fill out some paperwork, and head home with your pet after just a few hours. Others ask for references and/or a home visit, extending the process by a few days.
Aside from these few nuances, however, the steps to adopt a dog are relatively similar no matter where you go:
- Browse the available pets, find a dog you like, and fill out an adoption application.
- Wait for the shelter to review your application. If approved, a staff member or volunteer will contact you and arrange a meeting with the dog. Be sure to bring everyone who lives in the home (including other dogs, if the shelter allows it).
- If you and the dog get along, continue the adoption process by filling out paperwork.
- At this point, the shelter will take time to contact your landlord (if you rent), your veterinarian (if you have one), and any references you provided (if part of the application). You may also sit through a brief session on responsible pet ownership.
- Finally, you pay the adoption fee and take your pet home!
Make sure you leave with a copy of the dog’s medical records. This should include any procedures performed at the shelter as well as any available prior information. You’ll want these records during your first visit to the vet.
You’ll need to get a license for your newly adopted dog. In the event that you and your pet get separated, a license will help its rescuers reunite the two of you. A license also lets rescues (and anyone else your dog encounters) know that your pet is up to date on its rabies vaccination.
In order to get a dog license, you will need the following:
- A rabies certificate from the State of Maine
- The name and number of your veterinarian
- Your pet’s spay/neuter certificate, if it has been altered
The cost of a dog license is $7 for spayed/neutered pets and $12 for pets that have not been fixed. You can get your Maine dog license online, but keep in mind that not all cities participate in this service. If you don’t find your hometown through the Maine.gov website, head to your local animal department to find information about local licensing procedures.
Shelter animals sometimes require a lot of medical care, and some need more attention than others. Rescue volunteers and staff must prioritize and treat the most life-threatening conditions first, so some milder ailments like kennel cough may go unnoticed.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to take your new dog to the vet within a week or two of adoption. A quick check-up will catch anything that the shelter missed or didn’t have the capacity to treat. Bring your pet’s medical records with you to this visit so your vet has a comprehensive view of your pet’s needs and history.
Your adoption fee helps the rescue do the vital work it does every day. The money you pay goes toward food, shelter, medical care, transportation, enrichment, cleaning, staffing, rent, and so much more.
Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland
- Cost: $425 for puppies 3 months and under, $400 for puppies 3 to 6 months old, $375 for puppies 6 months to 1 year old, $250 for dogs between 1 and 5 years, $185 for dogs between 5 and 10 years, name-your-fee for special-needs dogs or dogs older than 10 years, $385 for dogs older than 3 months taken from partner rescues
- What it covers: spay/neuter surgery, heartworm testing, distemper and kennel cough vaccines, rabies vaccine and tag, leash, collar, and a coupon for obedience classes
Animal Welfare Society
- Cost: Varies between $99 and $800+
- What it covers: spay/neuter surgery, heartworm testing, distemper and kennel cough vaccines, rabies vaccine, internal and external parasite treatment, microchipping
P.A.W.S. Animal Adoption Center
- Cost: $425 for puppies younger than 6 months, $375 for puppies between 6 months and 1 year old, $225 for dogs between 1 and 5 years, $150 for dogs between 5 and 8 years, $100 for senior dogs older than 8 years, $375 for dogs from partner rescues
- What it covers: spay/neuter surgery, age-appropriate vaccinations, rabies vaccine, internal and external parasite treatment, microchipping
Ready to find your new pet? Here are some places where you can start your search:
- Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland: (Westbrook) In addition to pet adoptions, people of all ages can come to the ARLGP’s in-shelter classroom for crafting, parties, and humane animal treatment classes.
- Animal Welfare Society: (Kennebunk) Their main shelter in Kennebunk spans 40 acres of land. AWS also satellite centers throughout New England. They also run a variety of programs, such as Paws in Stripes and Pets and Women to Safety.
- Give a Dog A Home: (Sebec) This no-kill shelter rescues homeless dogs (primarily German shepherds) from high-kill shelters in Texas.
- Greater Androscoggin Humane Society: (Lewiston) This rescue maintains a dog park right next door, giving you the perfect place to take your pet for exercise.
- Harvest Hills Animal Shelter: (Fryeburg) Harvest Hills works with 19 towns in western Maine to rehome abandoned pets.
- Kennebec Valley Humane Society: (Augusta) Started in 1927, Kennebec Valley Humane Society serves more than 20 cities within the state of Maine.
- Midcoast Humane: (Brunswick) One of the biggest shelters in Maine, Midcoast Human rescues nearly 4,000 animals every year.
- P.A.W.S. Animal Adoption Center: (Camden) P.A.W.S. works directly with 12 Maine cities to rescue homeless animals.
- SPCA of Hancock County: (Trenton) This independent rescue offers a low-cost spay/neuter program.
You’re going to have some new expenses now that you have a pet in the home. For example, you’ll have to purchase the following on a frequent basis:
- Waste bags
- Dental treats, toothpaste, or other oral care products
- Dog walking services
- Boarding or pet sitting
You’ll need to buy these items as well (but not as often):
- A leash
- A collar or harness
- A crate
- Vet visits, vaccinations, and medications
- Dental care
- Grooming products
- Pet-friendly cleaning products
- Training sessions
- Puppy pads
If cost is a concern, see if there are any pet food pantries or low-cost health clinics in your county.
Some pets tend to have higher health costs than others. In these cases, pet insurance can be great to have. Compare coverage options with your dog’s medical needs to see if this type of insurance would be helpful.
There’s just one more thing to do before bringing your pet home! You’ll want to be sure to have the essentials set up ahead of time. Having items like the dog crate and food bowls in their proper spots when your dog first enters the home makes the transition from shelter life a little easier.
Grab and arrange the following items before going to get your new pet:
- A leash and a collar or harness (you may get one or more of these from the rescue)
- Food, bowls, and treats
- An appropriately-sized crate
- A variety of toys
- Grooming tools
- Enzyme cleaner and puppy pads (the excitement of a new home can lead to accidents)
We’re so excited for you, and we want to continue helping you and our pet! If you ever need a little assistance, check out our qualified dog walkers, dog sitters, and dog boarder in Maine.