Learn how service animals can assist people with disabilities, penalties for violating service animal laws and responsibilities when using a service animal.
Service animals are typically dogs specially trained or equipped to help individuals with disabilities. There is no government licensing, registration, or certification of service animals. Registering service animals is not required by law.
Service animals are not pets and should not be treated as such. An animal that provides only comfort or emotional support is not considered a service animal.
Examples of assistance provided by service animals include:
- Guiding a person who is blind or has low vision
- Alerting a person who is deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind
- Pulling a wheelchair
- Alerting and protecting a person who has a condition that causes seizures
- Reminding a person with a mental health condition to take prescribed medication
You may use a service animal with protection under state and federal law only if you are a person with any of the following disabilities:
- Mental health disorder
- Physical disabilities
- Mobility impairment.
- Intellectual or developmental disability
- Hearing loss, including the deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind
- Communication disorder
- Visual impairment, including the blind and those with low vision
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Any other condition that requires special ambulatory devices or services
Texas law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guarantee the right of a person who is blind or has other disabilities — including post-traumatic stress disorder — to be accompanied by a trained service animal or a service animal in training in all public places.
Public Places and Transportation
You have the right to enter public places and use public transportation with your trained service animal. The same access must be provided to service animals in training that are accompanied by an approved trainer is per state law. However, the law does not define approved trainer.
Public places include:
- Hotels, motels, or other places of lodging
- College dormitories and educational facilities
- Restaurants or other places where food is offered for sale
- Medical clinics, examining rooms, and in hospital cafeterias and patient rooms
Under the Fair Housing Act, you have the right to full and equal access to housing accommodations. Reminder, service animals are not pets. As the owner of a service animal, you are exempt from pet deposits and policies against owning pets; service animals are not pets. An exception to this rule is made for single-family residences where only one room is rented, leased, or furnished.
Under Title I of the ADA, a service animal may be a reasonable accommodation under if an employer has more than 15 employees. If applicable, you have the right to use a service animal at your job. Your employer may request professional written verification when it is not obvious that the animal is a service animal.
Questions About Your Service Animal
You have the right to not be asked about your service animal’s qualifications or certifications when entering a public place. Representatives of the place may not ask you to show documentation (for example, medical and training records). Representatives, however, may ask you if the service animal is required because of your disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform.
You are responsible for damages caused by your service animal. You must keep the animal properly harnessed, leashed, and controlled. If your disability does not permit the use of a harness, leash, or tether, the animal must still be under your control. A handler may be asked to remove the service animal if control cannot be maintained. If this happens, the establishment must still allow you to obtain goods or services without the service animal including the use of other reasonable accommodations.
You also must provide proper care for your service animal. Service animals that are abused or neglected are subject to seizure.
It is illegal for you to discriminate against an individual who has a disability. It is also illegal for you to misrepresent the use of an animal as a service animal; this includes falsely using a harness or leash that identifies a specially trained service animal.
Each illegal act is a misdemeanor and applies to you, a firm, an association, a corporation, a public or private organization, and their agent. Discrimination is punishable by a fine of not more than $300 and 30 hours of community service. Misrepresentation is punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 and 30 hours of community service.
Report a Problem
- To report service animal misrepresentations, contact your local law enforcement agency.
- To report service animal abuse or neglect, contact your local animal control unit.
- To report housing and employment discrimination, call the TWC Civil Rights Division at (512) 463-2642.
- To report public transportation discrimination, contact the transportation provider or the U.S. Department of Transportation Civil Rights Office at (202) 366-4648.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Service Animals Requirements – U.S. DOJ
- ADA Homepage – U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
- Rights and Responsibilities of People Using Service Animals (En Español)
- Texas Human Resources Code, Chapter 121 Participation in Social and Economic Activities
- Texas Fair Housing Act
- U.S. Fair Housing Act - Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division