Service Dog Laws Texas – Huge, Epic Guide, & FAQ (2022)

service dog laws Texas

What Are the Laws in Texas for Service Dogs?

Welcome to our updated service dog laws Texas. The world of service dogs and emotional support dogs can be very confusing and sometimes complicated, hence this website! Let’s break this all down to ease the confusion. We’ll go through the various federal and state service dog laws laws (because of course, there are multiple laws) and go through some common questions and answers about service dog laws Texas and the U.S. in general.

What Service Dogs Can Do

Jump to a section:

  1. What is a Service Dog?
  2. ADA Definition
  3. Emotional Support Dogs
  4. Is an Emotional Support Dog a Service Dog?
  5. Fair Housing Act Definition
  6. ACAA Definition for Air Travel
  7. Do You Have to Register a Service Dog in Texas?
  8. Professional Service Dog Training
  9. Vest, ID, Special Harness
  10. What Businesses May Ask
  11. What Businesses May Not Ask
  12. State vs Federal Service Dog Laws
  13. Housing Introduction
  14. Can a Landlord Deny a Service Dog?
  15. Reasonable Accommodation Request for Housing
  16. What Landlords May Ask
  17. Doctor’s Note for Housing
  18. Fees for Service Animals in Housing
  19. General Rights of Service Dog Handlers
  20. Where Are Service Dogs Allowed?
  21. If Access is Denied
  22. Person With a Disability – Definition

1. Service Dog Laws Texas – What Is a Service Dog?

Firstly, there are at least three very different definitions of ‘service dog’ or ‘service animal.’ It depends on the context.

  • Fair Housing Act (FHA)Opens in a new tab. comes into play when folks would be needing to find housing with their assistance animal, as it’s called in housing
  • Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA)Opens in a new tab. is relevant when service animals will be taking to the sky. Service animals can ride in the cabin with their handler as long as the prerequisites and paperwork has been done ahead of time

They each do not need to abide by the others’. This is just good to know to try to avoid any confusion. Just keep it in mind whether you’re reading about public places, housing, or air travel.

Photo: @snow_leopard_81Opens in a new tab.

2. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Service Animal Definition

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)Opens in a new tab. governs the rules around Service Dogs and their humans when public access rights are concerned. In addition, it gives us the rules for service dogs in public places.

People who are living with a disability are allowed to go almost everywhere the general public is normally allowed, with their service dog. There are some exceptions, such as religious organizations.

But generally speaking, forbidding a person with a disability who uses a service dog from accessing a place, service, or another facility where the public is allowed to go would be an act of discrimination.

Service Dog Texas
Photo: @eri_servicedogOpens in a new tab.

ADA Service Dog Definition

“A service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

ADA Frequently Asked QuestionsOpens in a new tab.

The only animals that can be service animals under the ADA definition (for public access rights) are dogs and miniature horses. The ADA has a separate guide for miniature horses, which are less commonly used, but still used by people with disabilities.

Service dogs can be any type, size, or breed. Even if a city has banned a particular breed (i.e. pit bulls), service dogs of that breed must still be allowed. More on this later.

service mini horse
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3. Emotional Support Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Comfort Dogs

The ADA defines service dogs as something totally different from emotional support animals, therapy animals, comfort animals, and companion animals.

ESA’s, therapy animals, comfort and companion animals are not considered ‘Service Dogs’. Therefore, they do not have the same rights as service dogs under the ADAOpens in a new tab..

A Therapy dog is usually trained, but not for one individual person’s disability. It is trained to be polite and well behaved, and is a dog that loves to visit with lots of new people in different settings.

These are pets that go with their owner to places like schools, hospitals, nursing homes to bring joy and ease anxiety in people. These are wonderful dogs, but they are not considered service dogs.

What is a Therapy Dog?

Comfort and emotional support animals (ESAs) provide comfort just by being with a person.  Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task for a specific person, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

I suppose what this means is that Service Dogs, with their human, are allowed into almost all public places that the general public is invited (restaurants, public transportation, theatres, grocery stores, etc.)

The same can not necessarily be said for people with these other types of dogs. So, a person with an emotional support animal may be excluded from a restaurant, for example, while a person with a service dog will be allowed.

Emotional Support Animals

Of course individual establishments may vary, but service dogs as defined by the ADA are the only type of dogs covered by this law; therefore the only ones invited into almost all public places (with a few exceptions such as religious spaces).

Read more:

emotional support dog therapy dog Texas
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4. Is an Emotional Support Dog a Service Dog in Texas?

No, emotional support animals are not service dogs in Texas or any other state in the U.S. under the ADA laws for public access rights. Emotional support animals do have rights for housing situations, however, the same as service dogs. When considering air travel rights, emotional support animals are no longer included in the definition under the Air Carrier Access Act, but they can still travel as pets.

Therapy dog Texas
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5. Service Animal as defined by the FHA (Fair Housing Act)

Service animals Fair Housing Act Definition Texas
Photo: @katelynburelleOpens in a new tab.

The Fair Housing Act laws are in place to protect those with disabilities who use assistance animals, as they are called in this context, under the FHA for housing situations such as landlord / tenant. This is a federal act, just like the ADA.

There is good news. The definition of service animal is not as strict! Check out the definition here:

Assistance Animal Definition Under the FHA

An assistance animal is not a pet. It is an 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.

For purposes of reasonable accommodation requests, neither the Fair Housing Act nor Section 504 requires an assistance animal to be individually trained or certified. While dogs are the most common type of assistance animal, other animals can also be assistance animals.

Fair Housing Act Opens in a new tab.
service dog Texas
Photo: @service.doodle.piperOpens in a new tab.

If you need your assistance dog for a housing situation, you’ll basically just need some kind of doctor’s note/letter to verify your need for the dog. You will have to give it to the landlord or other housing provider.

Assistance animals nor service dogs need to be registered. Legitimate service dog and assistance dog registration is not a thing! You will likely be able to keep your dog/animal if you’re a person with a disability. This is true as long as your dog meets the definition of assistance animal as above.

6. Service Animal as Defined by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)

service dog on airplane

When you need to consider air travel, there is yet again a separate definition of service animal. And yet again, this is a federal law. Keep in mind however, that individual airlines may vary slightly with their rules and laws, so it’s best to check with them for the exact details and requirements ahead of time.

Several years ago, emotional support animals were permitted as service dogs on airlines. But the laws have been updated to basically exclude emotional support animals from flying in the cabin. Emotional support animals are still able to fly as pets, though.

Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) a service animal means a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

U.S. Department of TransportationOpens in a new tab.
ACAA Service Dog Laws Texas USA
Psychiatric Service Dog. Photo: in a new tab.

7. Do You Have to Register a Service Dog in Texas?

No, you do not have to register or certify a service dog in Texas, or any other U.S. state. In fact, legitimate registration and certification doesn’t exist. You may have found service dog registration and certification websites online. These are not endorsed or even recognized by the ADA nor the Department of Justice, and convey no legal rights. Buying a piece of paper from the internet does not turn a dog into a service dog.

Service Animal Registration and Certification is Not Necessary

There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.

ADA – Frequently Asked Questions

8. Professional Training of Service Dogs

Like service dog registration and certification, professional training of service dogs is not required. In other words, people with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.

Some people use a program, some people have a trainer help them full time or part time, some people train the dog themselves, or they may use a combination of all of these tactics or strategies.

Read more: Service Dog Training Basics & FAQ

Professional training of Service Dogs Texas
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9. Vest, ID, Special Harness

The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness. This means that a fully trained service dog may appear to look like a pet.

It is best not to make judgements about people if you’re not sure. Many people who use service dogs do use a vest or harness though. It helps with public access issues, and there are some other reasons they may prefer to have gear on their dog.

  • Covered entities (businesses etc.) may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry
  • Mandatory registration of service animals is not permissible under the ADA

A person with a disability who is using a service dog is allowed to enter any public place (or use a public service) with their dog. This includes any place that members of the general public are normally invited to go.

Service Dog Vest, ID, Special Harness Texas

10. Service Dogs Of Texas: Public Establishments May Only Ask Two Things

1. Is the animal required because of a disability? 2. What type of work is the dog trained to perform?

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11. Service Dogs Of Texas – Establishments May Not

  • Ask about the person’s disability
  • Require medical documentation
  • Require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog
  • Ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task
Service Dog In Training Texas
Service Dog In Training – Bishop

12. Texas State Service Dog Laws vs. Federal Service Dog Laws

There are also state-specific service dog/assistance dog laws. These are in addition to the ADA/Federal laws. Service dog laws by State.

state and federal service dog laws

General Rights Under Law for Service Dogs Of Texas & Their People

  • In Texas, a person with a disability, who is accompanied by a service dog, has rights under the law.
  • Public facilities and common transportation carriers, are required to admit and assist.
  • This also includes dogs-in-training who are accompanied by a trainer, for training purposes. 
  • Further, the law requires that in the case of a disaster, service animals are provided with transportation, temporary shelter, and evacuation if necessary.
service dog Texas rights laws
Photo: @eri_servicedogOpens in a new tab.
  • Staff must not charge people with disabilities extra because of their dog
  • If the dog causes damage, the responsibility will be with the person using the animal
  • Employees of the state are permitted to ten days of paid leave to attend a training program. This training will familiarize them with service dogs

13. Service Dogs Of Texas – Housing Information

People with disabilities and their service dogs have legal rights to full and equal access to housing. *Service animals are exempt from pet deposits. They are not pets.

Even a property with a ‘no animals’ or no pets policy must allow a person with a disability who uses a service dog to keep the dog. The only exception is single family homes where the occupants lease, rent or furnish for compensation only one room.

service dog border collie
Photo: @celestialbordercolliesOpens in a new tab.

14. Can a Landlord Deny a Service Dog in Texas?

Generally speaking, a landlord may not deny a service dog in Texas simply because they feel like it. Service dogs are not pets, so having a “no pets” policy is not a valid reason to deny a service dog. Service dogs can only be denied in particular scenarios. Otherwise, denying them will be considered discrimination. These scenarios are:

  • If allowing the service animal would somehow impose a large financial and administrative burden
  • If allowing the service dog would require an extreme change to the rental property
  • If the assistance animal is dangerous and would be a threat to the health or safety of others
can a landlord deny a service dog in Texas?
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15. Reasonable Accommodation Request for Housing

Someone who needs to bring an assistance animal into a housing situation can make a “reasonable accommodation request.” This is when a tenant with a disability basically asks the landlord to make an exception to the rules, such as a no pets policy, a pet fee, or a “no pets” or ‘no animals’ rule, or even a rule about size or breed of dogs (Service dogs can be any size and any breed).

The idea is that granting this reasonable accommodation will allow the tenant to use and enjoy the rental property or dwelling, just like other people who don’t live with disabilities. Requests can be verbal or written, but it’s always recommended to get it in writing. (Paper trails are always good.)

Service Dog ADA laws
Service Dog BALU

16. What Landlords Can Ask

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban DevelopmentOpens in a new tab. (HUD), there are only two questions that a landlord may ask when a tenant makes this reasonable accommodation request.

  1. Does the tenant have a disability?
  2. Does the assistance animal (service dog, emotional support dog) perform tasks or work for the person, or provide emotional support that helps with the tenant’s symptom(s)?

If there is a “no” answer to either of the questions, then the landlord may deny the assistance animal. If the answer is “yes” to both, then the Fair Housing Act usually requires the landlord to allow the animal under the reasonable accommodation request.

Photo: @celestialbordercolliesOpens in a new tab.

17. Doctor’s Note for Housing

Like we mentioned before, federal registering and certification of service dogs isn’t a legitimate thing. Landlords can request a doctor’s note saying the animal is needed due to a disability. That’s it. You do not have to tell your whole life story, or offer personal infromation.

Some kind of simple documentation from a family doctor, psychiatrist, social worker, or another mental health professional will work. It should say that the tenant has a disability. And, that the animal will provide disability-related assistance or emotional support.

However, a landlord may not:

  • Ask for information about how severe the disability is
  • Demand medical records
  • Request any other medical details

Landlords are entitled ask the tenant to show that their animal is healthy and vaccinated. Service dogs are not exempt from local animal licensing and vaccination laws. In other words, if all dogs in a city must be licensed by the city, then service dogs do as well.

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18. Fees for Service Animals in Housing

Landlords and other housing providers are not permitted to charge a fee for a service dog whatsoever. It is unlawful for landlords to

  • Charge additional rent
  • Demand a pet deposit
  • Charge any fees whatsoever for an assistance animal
  • The tenant is still responsible for any damage the assistance animal does to the property

19. Service Dog Laws Texas – Where Are They Allowed In Public?

Under the ADA, a person with a disability does not have to be separated from their service dog when they are using a public service or public facility.  This means they are allowed to go most anywhere that the general public is normally allowed or invited to go.

Here are some examples:

  • Pubic modes of transportation
  • Hotel, motel, or other places of lodging
  • College dormitory
  • Educational facilities
  • Restaurants
  • Any other place where food is for sale
  • Medical clinics, examining rooms
  • Hospital cafeterias, hospital patient rooms
  • Auditoriums and convention centers, theaters and sports stadiums
  • Gyms, bowling alleys, recreational facilities, zoos, parks
  • Libraries, museums, social services centers

20. If Access is Denied to a Service Dog Texas

If a person with a disability is denied access to facilities because of their animal, a criminal penalty may apply to the offending party. Fines may apply and these are not more than $300 and 30 hours of community service.

21. Service Dogs Of Texas – ‘Person with a Disability’ Defined

“Person with a disability” means a person who has:

(A) a mental or physical disability

(B) an intellectual or developmental disability

(C) a hearing impairment

(D) deafness

(E) a speech impairment

(F) a visual impairment

(G) post-traumatic stress disorder

(H) any health impairment that requires special ambulatory devices or services

Sam Nelson

Sam Nelson is an experienced writer, advocate for people with disabilities and mental health, dog lover, artist, philosopher, and generally complicated human being.

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