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How to Get a Service Dog in Texas - A Complete Guide

To obtain a service dog in Texas, individuals typically need to follow these steps: First, obtain a letter of recommendation from a licensed healthcare professional specifying the need for a service dog. Next, contact a reputable service dog training organization in Texas to inquire about their application process and training programs.

Matt Fleming
April 2, 2024
April 26, 2023
8 minute read
Updated By
Matt Fleming
April 2, 2024
Expert Reviewed By:
Marvy BeckmanMarvy Beckman
Sunstar Clinical
April 26, 2023
August 18, 2021
8 minute read
April 2, 2024
Getting a service dog in Texas is a simple process. Learn about all the requirements to get a service dog in your state with Pettable.

The Bottom Line

  • How do I get a service dog in Texas? — You have a few options for getting a service dog in Texas. You can adopt a trained service dog from a reputable organization, hire a trainer to help you train a pet into a service dog, or train a service dog yourself.
  • How can I train my service dog? — To train a service dog you will either want to take an online course that will teach you the basics or hire a qualified professional trainer to help you out (although this can be an expensive option).
  • Do I need to register my service dog in Texas? — No, you don't need to register a service dog with any organization. A valid disability diagnosis from a healthcare professional and proper training are the only requirements.
  • Pettable Online Psychiatric Service Dog Training — If you have a mental health disability and are looking to train a psychiatric service dog. We offer an online training course led by a professional dog trainer, Lisa Gallegos CPDT-KA.

For many people living with physical, mental, and emotional challenges or disabilities, a service dog can make their lives easier and more enjoyable. A properly trained service dog can perform helpful tasks and provide crucial support to these individuals, improving their lives in ways only a canine companion can. 

However, rules and regulations may be different from state to state, so for residents of Texas, it’s important to be fully informed before adopting or training your assistance animal. If you’re living in the Lone Star State and considering adding a service dog to your life, this guide is for you.

How to Get a Service Dog in Texas

If you want to get a service dog in Texas, you'll need to have a disability that meets Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and train the dog to perform specific tasks that help mitigate your disability. While some organizations offer service dog training, you can also train a service dog yourself with the help of a professional trainer.

Options for Getting a Service Dog in Texas

If you want to get a service dog in Texas you have a few options on how to proceed. Any dog can be a service dog, so the choice is yours on where to acquire your dog. Before making a purchase, you should consider how you want to train your service dog, as that will have a big impact on which of these routes you take. Depending on how much time, effort, and money you are willing to put into service dog training different options will appeal to you.

There are several ways to add a service dog to your life, any of which could fit your needs and lifestyle. If you have a disability and want to experience the benefits of a service dog, have a few choices:

  • Self-train a service dog using an online training course — you can train a service dog yourself, but it's helpful to have a little extra know-how. An online training course can be a great resource (and a cost-effective option) for training a service dog. We offer an online psychiatric service dog training course for those with mental health conditions in need of a service animal.
  • Purchasing or adopting a trained service dog that matches your needs — Some organizations offer fully trained service dogs for purchase. While an extremely convenient option it is also the most expensive. Although, you may be able to track down financial assistance if opting for this route.
  • Hire a professional service dog trainer — If you have adopted an untrained dog that you want to make a service dog, another option is to hire a professional service dog trainer, who can assist in the training process.

Training a Service Dog in Texas

If you already have a dog or plan on adopting one to train as a service dog both online service dog training courses and in-person options are available. Of course, online resources can be accessed wherever you are in the country, but there are also several qualified service dog trainers for hire in Texas.

Online Service Dog Training Courses:

Pettable Online Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) Training Plan — If you have a mental health condition and need a psychiatric service dog, we highly recommend our own PSD training program. Our certified dog trainer Lisa Gallegos CPDT-KA will guide you through the process of training a PSD through a series of online lessons.

Service Dog Training Institute — If you need some more specialized training for a physical disability, the service dog training institute is highly rated and offers online courses that will help you train your service dog.

In-Person Service Dog Training:

There are plenty of professional service dog trainers across Texas that you can enlist for training services. Here are some good options:

Adopting a Service Dog in Texas

Another route you can take for acquiring a service dog is to adopt a dog that has already gone through or is currently being trained. Many organizations in Texas exist where you can adopt already-trained service dogs, here's a short list:

  • Service Dogs Inc. (Austin, TX) — An amazing organization that takes in shelter dogs and trains them as service animals for Texans.
  • Scouts Legacy (Dallas/Fort Worth, TX) — Breeds and trains Golden Retrievers as service animals for those in need.
  • Service Dog Express (San Antonio, TX) — Offers a list of dogs that have been assessed for trainability (note these are NOT trained service dogs).
A service dog being trained by its handler.

Do You Need to Register Your Service Animal in Texas?

Despite what some companies might suggest, there is no need to register your service animal in the Lone Star State. There are no federal laws requiring service animals (or emotional support animals) to register with an organization or database. Some companies will try to convince you to spend money on registration, which is simply a waste of money. 

What Identification Does My Service Dog Need?

No matter where you take your service dog, you are not required to carry any kind of identification for your service dog. This includes ID cards, vests, and specialized harnesses. With that said it can be beneficial at times to have your dog service wearing a vest simply so that people are aware they shouldn't be pet or distracted. Additionally, it's a good idea to get a note from a healthcare professional that proves your need for a service dog. Ultimately though a dog isn't a service dog without the proper training and disability-based needs. Never misrepresent your pet as a service animal, as it negatively affects those who are actually in need of a service animal, and could land you with a hefty fine or legal trouble.

Service Dog Laws in Texas

Texas state laws for service dogs are in line with federal laws and protections, but there are some additional rules:

  • There is a criminal penalty for denying access to a person with a disability because of their service dog, punishable by a fine of up to $300 or 30 hours of community service
  • Employees are entitled to up to ten days of paid leave for service dog training
  • Persons with disabilities must keep their service dog properly harnessed or leashed
  • Individuals who abuse or neglect their service dog are subject to seizure of the animal

Texas HB4164 Law on Service Dogs

Effective September 1, 2023, Texas HB4164 is a law built to prevent individuals from passing off their emotional support animals or standard pet dogs as service animals when they are not properly trained. The law increases the penalty for such acts, adding a requirement of 30 hours of community service to government agencies or nonprofits that serve people living with disabilities. 

One of the primary concerns of service animal advocates and Texas legislators is the risk untrained pets pose in public accommodations. These animals occasionally attack physical and psychiatric service dogs, discouraging disabled Texans from bringing their legitimate service dogs into public spaces such as restaurants, grocery stores, shopping malls, and others. This law is meant to protect the safety of service animals and their owners alike.

A psychiatric service dog posing in front of Dallas city hall.

Federal Protection for Service Dogs

Thanks to the ADA, individuals with service dogs are protected by certain federal rules and regulations that give the animal privileges not afforded to pets. Unlike pets, service dogs are permitted to accompany their humans in settings such as restaurants, hotels, stores, and medical facilities, to name a few. 

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that protects tenants from discrimination in housing, and that includes permitting service dogs to reside with their owners in their homes, even if pets aren’t typically allowed. Another federal law that affects service dogs is the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which makes it illegal for airlines to discriminate against passengers because of their disability. That means airlines must recognize service dogs and accept them on flights within the United States; however, they may deny a service dog in cases where it threatens the safety of other passengers.

What is a Service Dog?

While a pet dog may provide love and affection, a service dog is trained to work or perform specific tasks related to a person’s disability. According to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), a service dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The tasks performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Types of Service Dogs

Service dogs can be divided into two general categories: psychiatric service dogs (PSD) or service dogs for physical disabilities.

Psychiatric Service Dog — A psychiatric service dog can help anyone with a mental health disorder, such as anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They can be trained to fetch medication or perform deep pressure therapy (DPT), and their sheer presence and happy demeanor can provide much-needed emotional support. 

Service Dogs for Physical Disabilities — Other service dogs may be trained to help individuals with physical disabilities, such as impaired vision, mobility issues, or epilepsy. These dogs can perform such tasks as retrieving objects, providing physical balance, or identifying signs of a seizure before it begins. They can even seek help from others or contact emergency services.

Service Dogs vs. Emotional Support Animals

While a PSD is a dog of any breed trained to perform specific tasks for an individual, an emotional support animal (ESA) is any domesticated animal (dogs, cats, rabbits, and more) that provides emotional comfort and companionship to help alleviate the symptoms of certain mental health disorders. Individuals with these challenges can benefit from the affection and positive demeanor of their ESA, making the animal an important part of their treatment.

However, ESAs don’t have as many protections. They are not considered service animals, so they can’t typically accompany their humans in public spaces or airlines where pets aren’t allowed unless state or local regulations give them access. On the other hand, they are protected by the FHA, so they can reside with their owners in housing where pets aren’t allowed. 

A service dog on a walk along the canals of Irving, Texas.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Many Texans who struggle with mental health challenges will benefit from having a psychiatric service dog, but there are still plenty of queries that need solutions. Here are a few answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.

Who is Eligible to Get a Service Dog in Texas?

Any individual Texan with a diagnosed physical or mental disability can have a service dog, as long as they are trained to perform a specific task or service. 

How Do Service Dogs Assist Their Handlers?

Service dogs can provide physical and psychological assistance to persons with disabilities. They can assist with mobility issues, retrieve medications, provide physical comfort during an anxiety attack, or identify an emergency.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Service Dog?

If you want to purchase or adopt a trained service dog, you may run into a lengthy waitlist. If you want to train your dog with an online or in-person program, it could take anywhere from six months to a year or more.

How Much Does a Service Dog Cost?

Purchasing a trained service dog can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on what it is trained to do. Training your dog to be a service dog can cost anywhere from $150 to $250 per hour of training. 

Does insurance cover service dogs in Texas?

Whether you live in Texas or anywhere else in the United States, health insurance doesn’t typically cover the costs associated with adopting, purchasing, or training a service dog.

Are service dogs allowed in schools in Texas?

Generally speaking, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) permits properly trained service dogs to accompany disabled individuals in public schools and universities. However, the animal must be under its handler’s control at all times and not pose a threat to any other students, staff, or faculty.

Can you legally ask for proof of a service dog in Texas?

The ADA protects service dogs and their owners in Texas and the other 49 states, and that includes protecting them from unduly questioning their status. If it is not apparent that the canine is a service dog, staff and management are only permitted to ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Otherwise, it’s illegal to question the individual further.

04/02/2024 Update: Article was reviewed by Marvy Beckman LCSW for accuracy.

Meet the author:
Matt Fleming

Matt is a Midwestern-based writer and devoted dog dad, living with a sweet mixed-breed pup named Robin. A life-long dog lover, he had the pleasure of growing up with several German Shepherds, a Cocker Spaniel, and a Black Labrador. He is a full-time editor, as well as a musician and poet, who loves basketball, birdwatching and listening to The Cure and Nick Cave.

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