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 (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. Service animals are specially trained to do work or tasks for people who are living with disabilities.
Where can service dogs go?
In brief, service animals may go with their (legally disabled) handler wherever the public can go. There are a few exceptions, like sterile hospital environments and religious organizations.
Service dogs of any breed may go to malls, restaurants, grocery stores, movie theatres, community centres, schools, buses, taxis, hotels, Airbnb, amusement parks, doctor’s offices, hospitals, trains, and National Parks, just as a few examples.
In this detailed guide, we’ll go through some of the most common questions about service dogs and people living with disabilities in the state of Texas. This includes where they are allowed in public, housing information, what businesses need to know, plus much more.
Check out: Pet-Friendly Austin Hotels
- What is a Service Dog?
- ADA Definition
- Emotional Support Dogs
- Is an Emotional Support Dog a Service Dog?
- Fair Housing Act Definition
- ACAA Definition for Air Travel
- Do You Have to Register a Service Dog in Texas?
- Professional Service Dog Training
- Vest, ID, Special Harness
- What Businesses May Ask
- What Businesses May Not Ask
- State vs Federal Service Dog Laws
- Housing Introduction
- Can a Landlord Deny a Service Dog?
- Reasonable Accommodation Request for Housing
- What Landlords May Ask
- Doctor’s Note for Housing
- Fees for Service Animals in Housing
- General Rights of Service Dog Handlers
- Where Are Service Dogs Allowed?
- If Access is Denied
- Person With a Disability – Definition
- Psychiatric Service Dogs
- Where Does The ADA Apply?
- Service Dogs in Training (SDiT)
- Texas ESA Laws (Emotional Support Animals)
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.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is relevant for public access rights, generally speaking, and can come into play for education and workplace settings
- Fair Housing Act (FHA) 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) 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
- State-specific service animal laws. Even though we have the federal ADA laws, each individual state may or may not have additional or “state-specific” service dog laws for their own area. Check with individual states for anything that may be different from the ADA laws. A common example is that under the ADA, service dogs in training are not allowed public access rights. However, certain states extend the same rights to service dogs in training, as fully trained animals have. Another example are fake service dog laws.
- Section 504 – is similar to the ADA, and protects the rights of students with disabilities in educational settings.
- IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – is yet another law that in place for students with disabilities in the United States.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the employment division of the ADA.
Read more: Federal ADA Service Dog Laws – Summary & FAQ
2. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Service Animal Definition
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 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. This includes Airbnb. 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.
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 Questions
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.
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’. The reason is that they are not trained to do tasks or specific “work” for a particular person’s disability. Therefore, they do not have the same rights as service dogs under the ADA.
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.
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 to (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.
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).
- Can Service Dogs Go Anywhere?
- ADA Service Dog Laws & Information – Easy Guide & FAQ
- Service Dog vs. Emotional Support Dog
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.
5. Service Animal as Defined by the FHA (Fair Housing Act)
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
- 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.
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
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.)
16. What Landlords Can Ask
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are only two questions that a landlord may ask when a tenant makes this reasonable accommodation request.
- Does the tenant have a disability?
- 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.
17. Doctor’s Note for Housing
As 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 information.
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.
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
20. Service Dog Laws Texas – Where Are They Allowed In Public?
Under the ADA, a person with a disability (such as seizures) 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
- 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
Read more: Can Service Dogs Go Anywhere?
21. 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.
22. 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
(E) a speech impairment
(F) a visual impairment
(G) post-traumatic stress disorder
(H) any health impairment that requires special ambulatory devices or services
As we’ve already talked about, service animals perform various work or tasks to help someone with a disability to live safely and independently. U.S. Department of Transportation Americans with Disabilities Act regulations define a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to:
- Guiding individuals with impaired vision
- Alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds
- Providing minimal protection or rescue work
- Pulling a wheelchair
- Fetching dropped items
When riding transit, customers with disabilities who use service animals are responsible for maintaining control over their animals (and caring for them) at all times.
Riders are also responsible for knowing the best way to board and position their service animal on the vehicle, especially if the service animal may be required to provide assistance (“tasking”) during the transit trip.
Service animals may not block aisles or exits.
According to ADA regulations, every transportation employee or operator who serves people with disabilities needs to be trained so that they know how to provide non-discriminatory service in an appropriate and respectful way.
When serving passengers who are blind, operators should:
- Identify themselves
- Speak directly to the customer instead of through a companion
- Use specifics such as “there are five boarding steps and a 10-inch drop to the curb” when giving directions
Transit agencies should be aware of the following rules under ADA:
- Operators must allow all service animals on board
- Operators may not ask for proof of service animal, certification or of the customer’s disability
- Operators may not require a person traveling with a service animal to sit in a particular seat on the vehicle or charge a cleaning fee for customers who bring service animals onto the vehicle, unless the animal causes damage
24. Psychiatric Service Dogs
Psychiatric service dogs are a type of service dog that perform work or tasks related to psychiatric disabilities.
A few examples of these types of disabilities include:
- Eating disorders
- Anxiety disorders
Here are a few examples of some psychiatric service dog tasks:
- Providing reminders to take medication at a certain time
- Service dogs can lay across their handler and apply pressure (Deep Pressure Therapy) during a panic attack, for example
- Provide tactile stimulation or grounding
- Interrupting dissociative episodes or other repetitive or problematic behaviours
- Alerting the handler to rage or other types of strong emotions
- Interrupting self-harming behaviours
- Retrieve an item, such as a water bottle and medication for a panic attack
- Wake someone up from a nightmare
- Interrupting flashbacks
- Searching the house or home to ensure it’s clear and safe before the handler enters
- Providing a “reality check” to help with hallucinations
- Stabilizing a routine for someone
Read more: Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks – 17 Examples
The difference between psychiatric service dogs and emotional support dogs is simple: Psychiatric service dogs are trained to do at least one task for a specific person’s disability, and the task is related to the disability.
Emotional support animals are not task-trained like this, and provide comfort and other benefits by their presence alone. Emotional support animals are not service dogs, but they do have some rights when it comes to housing and employment situations.
25. Where Does The ADA Apply?
- Places of public accommodation which include…
- Places of lodging
- Places serving food or drink
- Places of entertainment
- Places of public gathering
- Sales or rental establishments
- Service establishments
- Stations used for specified public transportation
- Places of public display or collection
- Places of recreation
- Places of education
- Social service center establishments
- Places of exercise or recreation
- Public services, programs, and activities, which include: schools, and state and local government offices
- Public transportation
- Private transportation, like Greyhound bus service
- The workplace
- Airport terminals
26. Service Dogs In Training (SDiT)
Service dogs in Texas and other states do not need to be trained by a professional service dog training program, or professional trainer (under the ADA laws). But, they do need to be trained by somebody.
Many people train their dog by themselves or with some help, as many service animal programs have limited resources and long waiting lists.
Under the federal ADA laws, service animals in training do not get the same public access rights as fully trained service animals.
But, most states have some kind of state laws that allow service animals in training some kind of public access rights.
At this time, only four states do not cover service animals in training under their public accommodation laws.
Service Dog Laws in Texas Cover Service Animals-In-Training
The following is a quote from Texas Service Animal Laws:
“Texas law requires public facilities and common transportation carriers to admit a person with a disability accompanied by a service dog for assistance and also to admit a trainer of service dogs accompanied by a dog for training purposes.” – Texas Disability Law
(i) A service animal in training shall not be denied admittance to any public facility when accompanied by an approved trainer.
27. Texas Emotional Support Animal Laws
In Texas, emotional support animals are governed by various laws. Here are some facts about TX emotional support animal laws in different contexts.
- Emotional support animals (ESAs) are not automatically exempt from a housing provider’s no-pet policies
- Someone with a disability can request a “reasonable accommodation” for an ESA in a housing situation, and housing providers need to be accommodating unless they can show that allowing an ESA would be an undue burden on its operations
- ESA’s do not need to be specially trained in order to qualify for a reasonable accommodation for a housing situation
- Animals other than dogs may also function as emotional support, therapy or assistance animals in housing situations under the Fair Housing Act (I think that is why ESAs are called “ assistance animals,” not “service dogs” under this Act)
- Payment may be required for any specific damage done to the premises by an ESA
- It is illegal to charge someone with a disability an extra fee to keep a guide or service dog or an emotional support, therapy or assistance animal (ESA)
- Emotional support animals are no longer included in the ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act) definition of service animal, therefore…
- ESA’s may not travel in the cabin of a plane with their human under the ACAA; although, individual airlines may vary. ESAs may still travel through the air as a pet
- Emotional support animals are not covered by the ADA for public access rights, so they can be denied access to public places, although individual businesses may vary
- ESAs can still visit “pet-friendly” public accommodations with their handler
- ESAs can be requested as a reasonable accommodation in an employment situation under the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Emotional support animals do not need to be registered for any reason. No legitimate ESA registration system exists. Websites selling ESA papers online are not recognized by the Department of Justice nor the ADA, and purchasing one of those piece of papers from the internet does not give someone any special rights. What is needed for housing and/or employment is a letter from a doctor or other medical professional merely stating the animal is required
- Service Animal In Training Laws by U.S. State
- Federal ADA Service Dog Laws Epic Summary & FAQs
- Pet-Friendly Austin Hotels
- Texas Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Laws