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Emotional Support Animal Laws: Texas Legal Guide

Emotional support animals have the power to help people with mental disabilities. These powerful pets can help you remain calm in public, reduce general stress, and help with mental health conditions like PTSD, depression, or anxiety.

That said, there’s more to emotional support animals (ESAs) than meets the eye. While ESAs have some unique benefits, they’re not the same as service dogs. So, what are the laws about ESAs in Texas?

If you want to know about the emotional support animal laws in Texas, we have you covered. We’ll cover what an emotional support animal is, what the laws are in Texas, and even how to get an ESA letter.

Read on to learn everything you need to know.

What Is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

Emotional support animals are there to provide comfort and support for their owners. In most cases, an ESA is there to keep its owner calm in stressful situations.

It’s also important to note that emotional support animals are not designated as “pets” according to Texas law. Instead, they’re considered to be assistance animals. While this is the case, they’re still closer to pets than service dogs.

When it comes to emotional support animals it’s important to understand what they are and what they’re not before learning about Texas laws. We’ll take you through some differences between a service dog and an ESA and the requirements required to get one.

What’s the Difference Between ESAs and Service Dogs?

Emotional support animals and service dogs are not the same thing. Service dogs, for example, must train for several years to perform a specific task for their owner. What’s more, this training usually costs $20,000 to $30,000. Therefore, it makes sense that service dogs are subject to different laws than emotional support animals.

Another key difference is that emotional support animals can be any type of animal – not just dogs. In fact, you can have an ESA that’s a cat, snake, or even a hamster. The main thing to consider about an ESA and what makes it different from a service dog is that it can’t help with physical issues.

Are Emotional Support Animals Legal in Texas?

Yes, emotional support animals are legal in Texas and anyone who has a disability can get one if they apply.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals in Texas can’t be discriminated against, so having an ESA as treatment makes it possible to bring your ESA in public. Plus, you can usually have an ESA in your home as long as you have an ESA letter, even if you’re renting.

The only time where legality becomes a problem is if your emotional support animal is messy or unfriendly. In these cases, landlords and business owners can have your ESA removed. Therefore, ESAs are legal but they don’t have the same protections as service dog.

Do Landlords in Texas Have to Allow Emotional Support Animals?

In most cases, yes, landlords have to support emotional support animals in Texas. According to the Fair Housing Act (FHA), it’s against federal law to discriminate against a tenant because of a disability. Therefore, with an ESA letter you can live in a home that is otherwise not pet-friendly.

That said, there are some exceptions. The biggest exception is that if your emotional support animal doesn’t have a calm temperament and causes harm to people or property, the landlord can revoke your pet privileges.

What Are the Requirements for an Emotional Support Animal?

The requirements for an emotional support animal are simple enough. First and foremost, you must have some type of mental health disability that warrants an emotional support animal. Some quick examples include things like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

Aside from having a disability, you also have to seek out treatment. Therefore, you must consult with a licensed mental health professional and have them approve an ESA letter. The letter is what allows you to go on public transportation or live in an apartment with your ESA.

Now that you know what an emotional support animal is, you’ll have an easier time understanding the Texas laws about ESAs.

Emotional Support Animal Laws in Texas

The first laws to consider when it comes to ESAs in Texas are federal laws. This is because all 50 states and many territories must follow these laws. The most common laws that pertain to ESAs include the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Aside from federal laws, Texas also has some unique state laws.

Travel Laws for Emotional Support Animals in Texas

There are federal laws that protect people with disabilities when they travel. The laws are found in the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which provides guidelines for how to handle ESAs on public transportation.

These laws apply to service dogs and used to apply to emotional support animals until 2020. Unfortunately, the laws have changed and now it’s up to the airline to allow an ESA on a flight. Even if the ESA is not allowed on the flight it’s possible to bring your ESA with you when you travel – they’ll just have to go with the rest of the traveling pets.

When traveling to Texas with an ESA it’s important to note that these laws apply to other types of public transportation as well. For example, trains and buses can also restrict your pet if it’s causing problems.

Ultimately, it’s at the discretion of the travel agency, airline, or public transportation. To get the best results contact these organizations to learn their rules first or to ask for an exception.

Lastly, you might be able to bring an ESA on a plane if they fit in a carry-on case. This only applies to small dogs, cats, and other animals. Animals that aren’t well-trained aren’t exceptions and will have to travel with other ones.

Employment Laws for Emotional Support Animals in Texas

Employment is an essential part of life for millions of people in Texas and across the United States.

While employers in the past used to discriminate against employees based on disabilities, this is no longer the case. This is due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA provides employers with a set of laws to follow and Texas also adheres to these guidelines.

The ADA states that employers can’t discriminate against employees based on their disabilities. Therefore, employees who require their ESA to function properly are allowed to have their pets on the premises. This only applies if the pet doesn’t bother anyone and also requires the employer’s approval.

However, like the FHA there are also some exceptions. Emotional support animals that are aggressive or unfit for being around people can be banned from an establishment.

Additionally, the ADA also permits employers from not allowing the public’s emotional support animals to enter.

Public Access Laws for Emotional Support Animals in Texas

Texas follows the ADA when it comes to rights to public access. In short, public access refers to things like venues and other public places.

Some places that are considered public access in Texas include the following:

  • Parks
  • Museums
  • Stadiums
  • Concert venues
  • Restaurants
  • Places of worship like churches
  • Businesses
  • Stores
  • Sales locations

These are only a few locations that would fall under the blanket of public access.

ESAs aren’t protected by the ADA and therefore don’t have public access rights. Only service dogs have the right to access these public places without permission from business owners.

However, ESAs are permitted to go anywhere that pets are allowed, as long as they’re well-behaved and housebroken.

Housing Laws for Emotional Support Animals in Texas

Texas follows the Federal Housing Act when it comes to emotional support animals.

In short, this act ensures that people make adequate preparations for people who have disabilities, which refers to tenants. Tenants, according to Texas laws, are people who rent homes or apartments from a landlord. There may also be some exceptions but it depends on the type of property.

When it comes to having an ESA at your apartment or home, landlords in Texas have to follow laws outlined by the FHA. This means that they have to allow you to have your treatment for a disability, which is your emotional support animal. Typically, this applies to apartments, houses, and other types of rental properties.

The FHA states that ESA handlers can always live with their ESA, even if there’s a ‘no pets’ policy in place. ESAs are exempt from weight and breed restrictions, and landlords cannot charge ESAs any pet fees or pet rent.

While landlords in Texas must follow laws outlined by the FHA, it all comes down to the behavior of your emotional support animal. For example, if your ESA is unfriendly or damages property, landlords can remove you and your pet from the property. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that your ESA can remain calm and friendly in the place where you live.

When choosing a place to live make sure you have the right type of pet and that they have a calm temperament.

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal Letter in Texas

The emotional support animal letter is what helps you use the benefits that an ESA offers. Without an ESA letter as proof, you can’t bring your emotional support animal with you. The good news is that getting an ESA letter in Texas is similar to getting one in any other state. We’ll take you through each part of the process below.

Answer Questions About Your Pet and Yourself

If you’re going through an organization like ours, the first part of the process is to provide some information about you and your pet. You’ll have to include things like your full name, birthday, and how old you are.

For some applications, you may also have to provide your state, address, and other types of personal information. Ultimately, the goal is for the organization you’re registering your pet through to learn more about you.

On the other hand, you also need to provide details about your companion. This includes the type of animal, its weight, temperament, and age. Some more details will be required if you choose a more unique animal.

Be sure to check that the organization you want to work with is legitimate, as there are a lot of scams in this field. As long as you answer these questions honestly, getting an ESA letter in Texas shouldn’t be too challenging.

Speak With a Licensed Mental Health Professional

The next part of the process is to get a licensed mental health professional on the phone or to visit their office. Both options are viable and won’t impact your results. In fact, speaking with someone over the phone often gets you an ESA letter faster. That said, be prepared for what a licensed health professional might ask you.

In most cases, licensed mental health professionals will ask you a few things. They’ll begin by getting a general profile about you. This includes your background, the medications you take, and some medical history. From there, they may ask you about your mental health condition. The goal is to identify if you have conditions that warrant an ESA.

Calls for an ESA and in-person visits can be as short as 10 minutes or up to an hour.

Wait for Your Texas ESA Letter

The last part of the process is to wait for your ESA letter. ESA letters can come as soon as one day or it may take a few days for a licensed mental health professional to approve your letter. Therefore, be patient and wait for your ESA letter to arrive. In many cases, it’s also possible to download your ESA letter online as a PDF or another type of document.

Get an Emotional Support Animal in Texas Today!

Emotional support animals can change your life. If you’re someone who struggles with mental health issues, ESAs can help you treat them.

That said, always make sure you go about getting an ESA letter the proper way to avoid fines, and never call your ESA a service dog to get around Texas laws. Doing so results in hefty fines that can be hundreds of dollars.

The good news is that getting an ESA letter in Texas isn’t challenging as long as you follow the laws. Consider your situation and the temperament of your pet and the rest is simple. Always consult with your doctor or a mental health professional before getting an ESA in Texas.