Under Texas law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities can bring their service animals to public accommodations like:
These laws also require anyone who operates transportation services (like buses and taxis) to allow service animals.
Both federal and state laws protect people in Texas who use service animals, and you're entitled to rely on whichever law gives you the most protections. Read on to learn which animals qualify as service animals in Texas and which protections apply to emotional support animals (ESAs).
Under Texas's Human Resources Code, a service animal or an assistance animal is a dog that's specially trained to assist someone with a disability and is used by a person with a disability. These conditions count as a disability:
Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog (or, in some cases, a miniature horse) that's individually trained to perform tasks or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability. The tasks or work your service animal does must be directly related to your disability.
Neither law covers pets or emotional support animals (ESAs)—animals that provide a sense of safety, companionship, and comfort to those with psychiatric or emotional disabilities or conditions. Although ESAs often have therapeutic benefits, they're not specially trained to do particular types of work for their owners, so they aren't considered service animals under Texas law or the ADA.
But psychiatric service dogs are covered by both Texas law and the ADA. Unlike ESAs, these dogs are trained to provide services that allow people with mental impairments to go places and face situations they wouldn't otherwise be able to do. Psychiatric service dogs are trained to perform tasks like:
Under the ADA and Texas law, owners of public accommodations must allow service dogs—including psychiatric service dogs. But they aren't required to admit emotional support animals or pets.
Texas law has a very broad definition of public accommodations. It includes everything from government buildings and public streets and sidewalks to:
In Texas, you can bring your service animal to any place that appears on this list, but it doesn't include private workplaces. (Learn how the ADA protects your right to have a service animal in the workplace.)
Under Texas law, no public accommodation can make demands or ask questions about your service animal's certification or qualification, but they can ask what type of assistance the animal provides. If your disability isn't apparent, the establishment can ask either or both of the following:
The ADA allows public accommodations to exclude a service animal that poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. For example, if your dog is dangerously aggressive toward other patrons, it can be kicked out.
You can't be charged extra to bring your service animal on public transportation. But you can be required to pay for any damage your animal causes. And if you use a service animal to assist you with travel or auditory awareness, the animal must be in a harness and leash.
There are penalties for refusing to allow a service animal in public accommodations—it's a class C misdemeanor. Texas law also imposes penalties on those who falsely claim or imply (for example, by using a service dog harness) that their animal is a service animal when it isn't. Service dog fraud is a class B misdemeanor in Texas.
Texas law protects your right to have a service dog in your home, even if you rent it. And federal law—the Fair Housing Act (FHA)—extends that right to have any "assistance animal," including an emotional support animal in rental property. Texas landlords must allow you to have your service dog or ESA as a reasonable accommodation as long as:
If you have a service dog or ESA in Texas and you fit the above criteria, a property owner can't:
But you can be required to pay if your assistance animal causes damage to the property (other than normal wear and tear) or injures another person.
Both Texas and federal fair housing laws apply to most housing situations, with a few exceptions. The laws exempt the following:
If you think you've been discriminated against in housing because of your service dog or emotional support animal, you have the right to file a complaint through the Texas Workforce Commission's (TWC's) Civil Rights Division or the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD's) Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO).
Learn more about how to fight housing discrimination.
Updated March 27, 2023