Emotional Support Animal Laws in Texas
There are no specific state laws in Texas that protect emotional support animals; however, owners of ESAs are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA).
Clients living in Texas who have been granted an emotional support animal by a mental health professional are entitled to certain federal protections when it comes to renting a home or apartment. The law states that any person with a disability, either mental or physical, is given fair and equal access to housing with their ESA.
Under this law, Texas ESA owners can live with their animals, even in accommodation where pets are not normally allowed. While it’s not legally required, landlords can request to see your ESA letter that demonstrates your need for the animal.
Landlords are also not allowed to charge additional fees for tenants with ESAs, and they are not allowed to refuse to rent to a tenant because of their animal. However, you are financially liable if your ESA causes a threat to the landlord or other tenants or damages the property.
University campus housing is also covered under the Fair Housing Act, but dorm rooms are not. So, students who wish to have an ESA nearby while they study will want to keep this in mind. Like landlords, universities may also request an ESA letter to confirm the animal is registered and to determine its eligibility for housing accommodation.
It’s worth noting that hotels are not covered by the Fair Housing Act. If you are planning to travel to Texas and stay in a hotel with your ESA, you are not entitled to stay unless the hotel is pet friendly.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional Support Animal or ESA is an animal that provides therapeutic benefits such as companionship, comfort, and emotional support to their owners suffering from mental health disabilities. Although ESAs are different from service animals, under U.S law and ESAs are considered a pet. ESAs can be dogs, cats, rabbits, mini pigs, or any domesticated animal of any age. ESAs are, however, expected to have conductible behaviour in social spaces.
Always keep in mind that an ESA is not a service animal. A service animal is specially trained to carry out activities for a person with a handicap. For instance, they may assist persons who have severe sight impairments or apply deep-pressure treatment to patients who are experiencing anxiety disorders. A dog is commonly used as a service animal.
ESA or Assistance Animal does not have to be specially trained, can be any type of animal (cat, bird…), and a person can have more than one emotional support animal. An ESA helps improve a person’s mental health by living with and accompanying their person as a comfort animal.
While a service dog can go to public places, an ESA might not necessarily be allowed into public places (like stores or gyms) unless the owner/manager of the location grants permission.
Your rights to have an emotional support animal in Texas are federally protected by the ADA (Americans for Disability Act), HUD (Housing and Urban Development), and the FHA (Fair Housing Act).