What Is a Service Dog?
Let’s talk about Service Dogs of Texas. Firstly, 3 very different definitions of ‘service dog’ or ‘service animal.’ This can explain a lot of the confusion around service dogs.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA), each have their own separate definition.
They each do not need to abide by the others’. This is just good to know to avoid any confusion. Although, it’s still confusing, but don’t worry.
Just keep it in mind whether you’re reading about public places, housing, or air travel.
There are probably many more definitions, depending on who you ask (your mother-in-law?).
These are the most official, and most important to know, if you really need the laws on service dogs.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Service Animal Definition
More Service Dogs Of Texas Information
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) governs the rules around Service Dogs and their humans. 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.
ADA Service Dog Definition
Under the ADA:
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.
Emotional Support Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Comfort Dogs or Companion Animals under the ADA – Service Dogs Of Texas
The ADA defines Service Dog 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 ADA.
These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person. Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, 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. 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)
Service Animal as defined by the FHA (Fair Housing Act) for Service Dog Texas
When you need to consider a housing situation, then you can basically forget the ADA rules and switch to the FHA rules.
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.
You’ll need some kind of doctor’s note to verify your need for the dog. You will have to give it to the landlord or other housing provider.
You will likely be able to keep your dog/animal if you’re a person with a disability.
This is true whether it is a custom-trained service dog, non-trained emotional support dog, or another type of therapy or assistance dog, or another animal altogether.
Service Animal as defined by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) for Service Dogs Of Texas Information
When you need to consider air travel, there is yet again a separate definition of service animal.
Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
a service animal is any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability; or any animal that assists persons with disabilities by providing emotional support.
Documentation may be required of passengers needing to travel with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal.
Register Service Dogs Of Texas
Proof of Service Dog Registration Texas & Certification is Not Required for Public Access
There seems to be a lot of confusion around this subject. Many services dogs do have what – at least – looks like official identification. Or, it appears as though they have proof of certification.
There are many places – many of them online – that you can simply buy service dog vests and other gear to let the public know their dog is at work.
However, people with disabilities are not required (under the ADA) to show proof of certification or registration for their service dog.
Americans with Disabilities Act – Federal & Service Dogs Of Texas
- People with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.
- The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness.
Covered entities 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.
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.
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.
You do not have to prove your dog has been certified. In fact, in accordance with the ADA :
Service Dogs Of Texas: Public Establishments May Only Ask You Two Things
Is the animal required because of a disability?
What type of work is the dog trained to perform?
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
State vs. Federal Service Dog Laws – Service Dogs Of Texas Information
There are also state-specific service dog/assistance dog laws. These are in addition to the ADA/Federal laws.
People with disabilities are entitled to whichever law allows them the most benefit.
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
Check out the official laws here for Service Dogs Of Texas Information
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’ 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 Dogs Of 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
- 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
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.
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