Across the country, emotional support animals (ESAs) are becoming more and more popular. And, as emotional support animal laws become more compromising, it’s easier than ever to qualify for an ESA.
So, what emotional support animal laws are currently in place for Texans? And what can you expect from Texas laws in the future? If you plan to get an emotional support animal in Texas, here’s what you need to know.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal is a pet that provides companionship and emotional support to its owner. Unlike service animals, which are trained to perform specific tasks for their owners, emotional support animals do not require any special training.
The most common emotional support animals are dogs but any type of animal can qualify as an ESA, including rabbits, ferrets, and even iguanas. Emotional support cats make up the next largest group of animals that qualify.
To be considered an emotional support animal, your pet must be prescribed to you by a licensed mental health professional. This professional must determine that you have a disability that causes emotional or psychiatric symptoms. These symptoms must interfere with one or more major life activities, such as sleeping, eating, or going to work.
If you meet these criteria, your emotional support animal can live with you in any type of housing, even if that housing has a no-pets policy. In addition, emotional support animals are allowed to fly with their owners in the cabin of an airplane at no extra charge.
Emotional Support Animals vs. Service Animals in Texas
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as any dog that has been specially trained to perform tasks or do work for a person with a disability. These tasks can include things like providing emotional support to a severe trauma patient, assisting a blind or deaf person with tasks around the house, or alerting their owner to an impending seizure.
All other types of service animals must be individually trained to perform a specific task for their owner. Service animals include:
- Seeing-eye dog
- Hearing dog
- Diabetic alert dog
- Psychiatric service dog
- Seizure-response dog
- Mobility assistance dog
Typically, medical and mental health professionals assign them to individuals with significant disabilities. These include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Autism and other mental disabilities
- Cancer and other terminal illnesses
- Severe mental health conditions
Service dogs are allowed in all public places in Texas, including restaurants, hotels, and government buildings. In addition, service animal laws in Texas state that landlords must make reasonable accommodations for service animals. This policy remains even if there is a no-pets policy in place.
Service animals are required to complete stringent certification processes and receive special training. This kind of training includes:
- Socialization: Service animals must be socialized to different types of people, environments, and situations.
- Obedience: Service animals must be able to follow commands from their owner without hesitation or distraction.
- Task training: Service animals must be trained to perform specific tasks that assist their owner with their disability.
Because of the special training that they receive, service animals are held to a higher standard than emotional support animals.
What Qualifies a Pet to Be an Emotional Support Animal?
In Texas, there are no specific qualifications that a pet must meet to be considered an emotional support animal. Any type of animal qualifies as long as it has been prescribed by a licensed mental health professional. Additionally, the ADA does not cover emotional support animals in their jurisdiction.
The only requirement for an ESA is that the animal must provide companionship and emotional support to its owner. This support must help mitigate the symptoms of a mental or emotional disability. While ESA letters require licensed mental health professionals, you do not need significant health impairment to qualify for these companion animals.
Because an emotional support animal does not require any specialized training, it is not held to the same standard. This key difference is the reason that a service dog is different from an emotional support dog.
Laws for Your Emotional Support Animal – Texas
Texas state law does not have any specific laws regarding emotional support animals. However, there are federal laws that protect the rights of people with emotional support animals.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Fair Housing Act protect those with emotional support animals. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, landlords and property managers cannot discriminate against anyone who has a disability. This means that they must equally consider all applicants, regardless of whether or not they have a legitimate disability.
What this restriction means for service animals is that landlords must make reasonable accommodations for them. This includes allowing them to live in properties that have pet policies in place. It also includes all rental establishments, university housing, and other lodging establishments.
In addition, landlords cannot charge pet fees for service and emotional support animals. These fees are typically charged to renters who have pets in order to help cover the cost of damage that they may cause.
However, if an emotional support animal causes damage to the property, the landlord can charge the pet owner for repairs as it is still their responsibility.
Though not required, housing providers are legally allowed to request to see a legitimate ESA letter before allowing you to move into an apartment, condo, or house. If they have a no-pet policy or require you to pay a fee, expect to have your ESA letter ready to show them.
Keep in mind that hotels, motels, and Airbnbs are not protected under the FHA. When traveling to Texas, emotional support animal owners, keep in mind that you may face rejection from where you plan to stay.
Air Travel Laws
The Air Carrier Access Act is a federal law that protects the rights of people with disabilities when traveling by air. However, only service animals get complete protection under this law.
Under this law, airlines cannot discriminate against passengers with disabilities. In addition to nondiscriminatory treatment, they must also make reasonable accommodations for them.
If you own a service dog, an airline must allow you on the flight, regardless of any other circumstances since they are protected by this law. However, emotional support animals are no longer completely protected by the Air Carrier Access Act. Due to poor behavior from some pets, airlines now reserve the right to ban certain (or all) animals from flying.
The best way to ensure that your emotional support animal is allowed on a flight is to contact the airline ahead of time and let them know that you will be traveling with an ESA. You should also have a valid ESA letter with you when you travel.
Because of this addition to the emotional support laws, we recommend only registering an emotional support dog or cat. Furthermore, it is best to register a small pet, rather than a large one to make traveling easier. Any other kind of animal will likely be rejected, making traveling more difficult.
Public Transportation Laws
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. This includes people who rely on a service animal, but not emotional support animals or another assistance animal.
Under the ADA, all public transportation must be accessible to those with disabilities. This means that buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation must give equal access for those with service animals but not emotional support animals.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, public transportation terminals that operate on a fixed schedule don’t have to accomodate for a service animal or emotional support animal if it would result in a significant delay.
In order to ensure that your emotional support animal is allowed on public transportation, it is best to contact the transportation company ahead of time. You should also have your ESA letter with you when you travel.
Since ESAs are not covered by the ADA, your employer is not required to make any accommodations for them at work. This includes allowing them in the workplace and making changes to your job duties.
However, your employer must make a reasonable accommodation for you if you have a disability that qualifies under the ADA. For example, if you have anxiety and your doctor recommends an emotional support animal, your employer would be required to allow the animal in the workplace.
If you truly feel as though you require an emotional support animal, it is best to work a job that allows you to work from home or that is animal-friendly. That way, you can avoid any potential conflict with your employer.
Public Space Laws
When it comes to public access, the same rules apply to emotional support animals as they would to public transportation. Areas such as parks, libraries, and places where they serve food are all required to make a reasonable accommodation for those with a service animal but not emotional support animals.
However, this does not mean that your ESA won’t be allowed anywhere in public. It just means that the place you’re going to is not required to make any special accommodations for your animal, even if you have a mental illness or letters from health care professionals.
The best way to ensure that your emotional support animal is allowed in a public space is to contact the area management ahead of time and inquire about their regulations. In general, you can also find information about what is allowed and what isn’t online.
Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Texas
If you want to get an emotional support animal in Texas, the first step is to consult with state-licensed health professionals. This professional will assess your needs and determine whether or not an emotional support animal is right for you.
If they prescribe you a valid ESA letter, they will also provide guidance on what kind of support animal in Texas would be best for you. Once you have your letter from someone in the mental health field, you can register your animal with a legitimate emotional support animal registry.
Getting an ESA Letter Online With ESApet
There are plenty of online ESA prescribers that will write you a valid letter, including ESApet, an online ESA service that takes less than a day. The process is fast and simple:
1) Taking a Brief Quiz
Their three-step process begins with a short quiz. In this quiz, you will answer some questions about your mental or physical health condition and how it affects your life. Based on your answers, they will determine whether or not you qualify for an emotional support animal.
2) Meeting for a Phone Consultation
If you do qualify, you will be matched with a mental health professional in Texas who can write you a prescription for a service animal. The entire process is done online and can be done from the comfort of your own home.
You will have a brief phone consultation with your mental health professional to discuss your needs and why an emotional support animal would help you. They will then write you a prescription for an emotional support animal if they determine that it is necessary.
3) Receive Your ESA Letter in Under 24 Hours
Once you have your prescription, you can register your animal with a legitimate emotional support animal registry. You will receive your emotional support letter in the mail within 24 hours.
With your ESA letter, you will be able to live with your emotional support animal without any issues. However, be aware that you may run into problems at airports and in public spaces. Therefore, if you are a significantly disabled person, it is best to get a service animal.
Be sure to keep your ESA letter with you at all times as it is the only way to prove that your animal is a legitimate emotional support animal.
You can find more information on how to get an ESA letter here.
If you have a pet that provides you with emotional support, there are some laws in place to protect you. Most of these laws are federal laws, meaning that you will be protected under the same laws regardless of what state you live in.
In Texas, emotional support animals are not given the same rights as service animals. This means that they are not allowed in public places such as parks and shopping malls. However, you can still take your emotional support animal with you if you contact the place ahead of time and get permission or find out that they allow them.
If you want to get an emotional support animal in Texas, the first step is to consult with a mental health professional. This professional will assess your needs and determine whether or not an emotional support animal is right for you.
If you do not have an animal already, they will also provide guidance on what kind of animal would be best for you. Once you have your letter, you will be all set.