If your pet is a constant source of comfort and support, you want to keep them with you as much as possible. What happens when you live in a place that doesn’t allow pets? Is there a way to keep your animal in your home? If you have an emotional support animal, the answer is yes.
Emotional support animals (ESAs) are assistance animals for individuals with mental or emotional disabilities, such as depression, anxiety, autism, and other conditions. Federal laws protect your right to keep your ESA in your home, even if your housing provider doesn’t allow pets. Texas landlords and housing providers must make reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals.
You can get accommodation for your ESA if you have a mental or emotional disability that your animal helps mitigate. To ensure you get housing accommodation for your emotional support animal, you need the right documentation: an ESA Letter written by a licensed mental health professional. Read on to get more information on emotional support animals, relevant ESA laws, and details about getting a legitimate ESA Letter.
The Bottom Line
- What is an emotional support animal? An animal whose comforting presence helps alleviate the symptoms of a mental or emotional disability is considered an emotional support animal.
- Are ESAs considered pets in Texas? No. State and federal laws designate ESAs as assistance animals, which are exempt from housing-related pet restrictions.
- How do I get an ESA Letter in Texas? If you need an ESA Letter to show your Texas landlord, you can get one online through Pettable.
- Do landlords in Texas have to accept ESAs? In most cases, yes. A landlord can only deny an ESA that is a threat to the safety of other residents or likely to cause property damage.
Emotional Support Animal Laws in Texas
Federal laws about emotional support animals apply in Texas. However, the state also has laws that can affect ESA owners in certain situations.
Texas ESA Housing Laws
Throughout the US, housing providers are subject to the federal law known as the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from discriminating against individuals based on many different criteria, including disability.
The FHA also requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, including allowing assistance animals (such as ESAs) regardless of restrictions on pets. Under the Fair Housing Act, a landlord can’t deny an emotional support animal and cannot charge additional rent or other pet fees to the owner of an ESA.
Housing providers in Texas are subject to the Texas Fair Housing Act. This state law mirrors the federal law, prohibiting discrimination and requiring housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Under the Texas FHA, landlords can’t usually deny ESAs or charge extra fees.
There are some exceptions in the FHA and the Texas Fair Housing Act. Some types of housing aren’t covered under these laws, including a single-family home sold or rented by the owner (who isn’t a landlord of multiple properties). FHA rules also allow landlords to deny ESAs that threaten property damage or the safety of other residents.
Texas ESA Laws for Employment
Employers in Texas and throughout the United States must allow employees to bring service animals with them to work (in most cases). This is due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. This law means that an individual can bring their service dog with them to work unless the presence of the service animal would affect the work environment (e.g., compromising a clean room).
Texas follows the regulations of the ADA, prohibiting employers from denying entrance to service animals. However, neither the ADA nor the Texas state government considers an emotional support animal to be a service animal. As such, employers may decide whether to allow emotional support animals on their premises.
If your employer does allow your emotional support animal, it’s important to make sure your ESA is potty trained and well-behaved at the office. Texas allows employers to remove assistance animals and service animals if they are out of control, threatening the safety of others, or not potty trained.
Texas ESA Laws for Travel
There is a federal law that governs travel regulations for individuals with disabilities and their animals. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits airlines from discriminating against passengers with disabilities. It requires air carriers to allow service animals to fly in the cabin with their owners for no additional fee.
Until 2020, the ACAA included assistance animals (e.g., emotional support animals) as well as service animals. However, the law was changed in 2020, and under the current version, only service animals are protected. Air carriers may choose to allow ESAs to fly in the cabin for free, but they aren’t required to anymore. Some airlines still have policies in place for emotional support animals, but not all of them do.
Likewise, regulations for other forms of transportation generally relate to service animals, not emotional support animals. Most travel providers allow emotional support animals to travel as pets. If you have a small dog or cat that fits in a “carry-on” crate, you may be able to bring them with you in an airplane cabin (in their crate). Travel providers can charge pet fees for ESAs.
Texas ESA Public Access Laws
Can you take your emotional support animal out in public in Texas? State laws cover a range of public spaces, including the following:
- Restaurants and other food establishments
- Stadiums and theaters
- Stores and sales locations
- Transportation stations
- Service establishments
- Houses of worship
- Public gathering spaces
Generally, the ADA requires owners of public accommodations to allow a service animal. The same requirement doesn’t exist for emotional support animals under federal or Texas state law. Owners of businesses and other public spaces may choose whether to allow emotional support animals or not. If your animal is out of control, the owner of the premises is allowed to deny entry.
Sometimes ESA owners use brightly colored vests or harnesses for their animals, which is fine as long as the item doesn’t indicate that an ESA is a service animal. In Texas, it’s a misdemeanor to misrepresent an animal as a service animal. If you use a harness on your ESA that implies it’s a service animal, you could be fined up to $300 and have to perform up to 30 hours of community service.
How to Get a Legitimate ESA Letter in Texas
If you want to secure your rights under the FHA in Texas, you need an ESA Letter that meets state requirements. Pettable’s online service makes it easy.
Complete Our Assessment
You can find out if you are likely to qualify for an emotional support animal by taking our online pre-screening quiz. If you meet the basic requirements, you’ll then choose which type of letter you need: housing, travel, or both.
Consult With a Therapist
Once you e-sign the consent forms, we’ll match you with a licensed mental health professional, and you can make an appointment that fits your schedule. The LMHP will determine whether your condition qualifies for an ESA during this telehealth evaluation.
Get your Emotional Support Animal Letter
If you are eligible for an ESA, your therapist will write and sign an ESA Letter that meets federal and state requirements. You can choose rush service to get your letter in as little as 24 hours (California residents excluded).
We offer a complete satisfaction guarantee, so if your letter doesn’t work as intended, we will refund 100% of your money.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
A dog, cat, bird, or any other animal whose presence provides comfort and support to an individual with a mental or emotional disability is an emotional support animal. An ESA’s unconditional love and soothing presence can help mitigate many of the symptoms of mental illnesses to improve an individual’s quality of life.
Some of the conditions that an emotional support animal can help with are generalized anxiety, depression, social anxiety, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), panic disorder, autism, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Individuals with other conditions may also qualify for an emotional support animal.
What is a Service Animal?
While any animal can be an ESA, the definition of a service animal is much narrower. The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service animal as a dog (and in some cases, a miniature horse) that is trained to work or perform specific tasks to assist an owner with a disability.
The work that a service animal performs must directly relate to their owner’s disability. For example, a service dog can alert a deaf person, help prevent self-harm during a seizure or assist with a mental disability. Service dogs can accompany their owners almost everywhere.
Service dogs can be trained by anyone with no requirement for a professional trainer. However, training a service animal can be a difficult task without the correct knowledge. Pettable offers an online PSD training program that will teach you how to train a psychiatric service dog. If this is your goal, take our online quiz to see if a PSD training program is right for you and your pet.
Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Animal
While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, a service animal isn’t the same as an emotional support animal. Service animals are dogs (and sometimes miniature horses) that perform specific tasks in support of their owners’ physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. They are protected by the ADA and allowed into most public spaces.
Emotional support animals don’t need to have any special training, and they can be any sort of animal. They are exempt from housing-related pet restrictions and fees under the Fair Housing Act. However, owners of public spaces aren’t required to accommodate ESAs.
Frequently Asked Questions about Texas ESA Laws
Do you still have questions about Texas’s rules for emotional support animals? Here are some expert answers to common questions.
Do I have to tell my landlord I have an ESA in Texas?
If your housing complex allows pets, you may not have to inform your landlord about your animal. However, if you want to be exempt from pet fees, you must prove that you have a legitimate emotional support animal.
Can a landlord deny an emotional support animal in Texas?
Not without an acceptable reason. If your emotional support animal is not potty trained, is aggressive, or is not reasonable for your dwelling (e.g. a llama in a third-floor studio apartment), then a landlord could deny your request.
When do I tell my landlord about my ESA in Texas?
If your housing complex prohibits pets, it’s important to present your ESA accommodation request as soon as possible. Your landlord can request a copy of your ESA Letter for housing, so make sure you have one ready.
Can a landlord in Texas charge a fee for an emotional support animal?
No. The Fair Housing Act prevents housing providers from charging additional fees for emotional support animals. However, you are liable for any damages your ESA causes.
Can you have more than one ESA in Texas?
There is no state or federal law that limits the number of emotional support animals you can have. However, a landlord has the right to request documentation for each ESA, so make sure you have a legitimate ESA Letter.
What restrictions can my landlord place on my emotional support animal in Texas?
The Fair Housing Act allows landlords to deny accommodating ESAs when doing so would result in property damage, an undue financial or administrative burden, or a threat to the safety of other residents.