Is It Illegal to Leave Your Dog Chained Outside in Maine? Here’s What the Law Says

Living in a community fosters a sense of connection, and sometimes that connection extends beyond our human neighbors. It can be unsettling to witness a situation that raises concerns about animal welfare. Imagine you’re taking your evening walk through a quiet neighborhood in Portland, Maine, and you see a dog tethered outside in the chilly autumn air. The dog paces along the limited length of its chain, barking occasionally. A shiver wracks its body, and there’s no sign of a proper shelter. This scenario might lead you to wonder: is it even legal to leave a dog chained outside in Maine?

The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. While chaining a dog in itself isn’t illegal in Maine, there are strict regulations in place to ensure the animal’s well-being. This article delves into the legalities and responsible practices surrounding tethering dogs outdoors in the beautiful state of Maine.

Chaining Dogs in Maine: Legal or Not?

Let’s clear the air first: chaining a dog outside in Maine isn’t explicitly prohibited by law. However, the concept of “tethering” comes into play here. Tethering refers to any method that restricts a dog’s movement using a leash, rope, or chain attached to a stationary object. While tethering is permitted, Maine has established a set of regulations to ensure this practice doesn’t compromise the dog’s health and safety.

Regulations for Tethering Dogs in Maine

These regulations encompass several key aspects of proper tethering, ensuring the dog’s basic needs are met and its well-being is prioritized. Let’s explore these regulations in detail:

  • Adequate Shelter Requirements: Providing adequate shelter is paramount for a tethered dog. This shelter should protect the animal from the elements, including rain, snow, scorching sun, and biting wind. It should be large enough for the dog to stand comfortably, turn around, and lie down in a natural position. Here’s where Maine gets specific: the regulations state that the shelter must have a solid roof, three sides, and a floor raised off the ground. Straw or another suitable bedding material should be provided for insulation and comfort. A simple doghouse wouldn’t suffice in heavy rain or snow – it needs to be properly constructed to offer complete protection.
  • Protection from Weather Extremes: Maine experiences a range of weather conditions throughout the year. Tethering a dog outdoors during these extremes can be detrimental to its health. The regulations address this concern: * Heat: Tethering a dog outside when temperatures soar is strictly prohibited. This common-sense rule protects dogs from overheating and potential heatstroke. * Cold: Similar restrictions apply during excessively cold weather. Leaving a dog tethered outside when it’s shivering uncontrollably or showing signs of hypothermia is a violation.
    Remember, even seemingly moderate temperatures can be dangerous for certain dog breeds with thick coats or health conditions. It’s crucial to consider your dog’s individual needs before tethering them outdoors.
  • Tether Length and Attachment: The length of the tether is another crucial factor. Maine regulations mandate that the tether be at least five times the length of the dog’s body. This allows for sufficient movement and prevents the dog from becoming entangled or strangled. Additionally, the tether needs to be attached to a secure  
  • swivel mechanism to prevent the tether from twisting and causing injury. Choke chains or prong collars are strictly prohibited for tethering, as they can inflict serious injuries on the dog’s neck.
  • Supervision and Access to Food and Water: Tethering a dog for extended periods without supervision is not permitted in Maine. The dog should have access to fresh, clean water at all times. Food should be provided according to the dog’s age, breed, and activity level. Leaving a tethered dog unattended for long stretches, especially during extreme weather conditions or without access to basic necessities, can constitute animal cruelty.

Recognizing Animal Cruelty When Tethering

Even if someone adheres to the tethering regulations, there are situations that might still indicate animal cruelty. Here are some red flags to watch out for:

  • Signs of neglect or abuse: Is the dog excessively thin or malnourished? Does it have visible injuries or untreated wounds? Is its fur matted and dirty? These signs suggest neglect and a lack of proper care.
  • Insufficient shelter or bedding: Does the shelter offer inadequate protection from the elements? Is the bedding damp, moldy, or insufficient for warmth? This indicates a disregard for the dog’s comfort and safety.
  • Tethering during extreme weather: Is the dog tethered outside during a heatwave or a blizzard? This is a clear violation of responsible pet ownership and can have life-threatening consequences.
  • Short tether that restricts movement: Does the tether allow the dog only a few steps in any direction? This severely limits the animal’s ability to exercise, eliminate comfortably, or find shade/shelter.

If you witness any of these situations, it’s crucial to report suspected animal cruelty to the appropriate authorities. Here are some resources:

  • The Maine Animal Welfare Society: [MAWS helpline number]
  • Your local animal control department

Alternatives to Tethering Your Dog

Tethering a dog should always be a last resort. Here are some safer and more humane alternatives to consider:

  • Fenced-in Yards: Providing a secure fenced-in yard allows your dog to roam freely and safely within a designated area. This is the ideal solution for pet owners who want their dogs to spend time outdoors.
  • Tethering for Short Durations with Supervision: If tethering is absolutely necessary, keep it to a minimum (ideally no more than 15 minutes) and ensure you’re supervising the dog closely. Make sure all the tethering regulations are followed, and provide adequate shelter, food, and water.
  • Indoor/Outdoor Dog Runs: Consider constructing a secure dog run that allows your dog access to both indoor and outdoor spaces. This provides a safe environment for playtime and exercise while keeping your pet contained.


The well-being of our furry companions is a top priority. While tethering isn’t illegal in Maine, it comes with a set of regulations that prioritize the dog’s safety and comfort. Remember, tethering should only be used as a temporary solution and never as a substitute for proper care and supervision. Always prioritize providing your dog with a safe and comfortable environment, whether indoors or outdoors.

Responsible pet ownership goes beyond just following the law. It’s about understanding your dog’s needs and ensuring they have a happy and healthy life. By familiarizing yourself with the regulations and exploring alternative solutions, you can ensure your canine companion enjoys the beautiful Maine outdoors safely and comfortably.

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MBS Staff
Articles: 7042

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