Texas law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act guarantee the right of a person who is blind or has other disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to be accompanied by a trained service animal in all public places. Most recently in Texas, House Bill 489, (passed during the 83rd Legislature, Regular Session, 2013) addresses the rights and responsibilities of those who use service animals.
In Texas, the terms “assistance animal” and “service animal” mean “a canine that is specially trained or equipped to help a person with a disability.” The tasks that the service animal may perform must be directly related to the person’s disability. Additional definitions may be found here.
The Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services is providing information about the roles of trained service animals and the rights of their owners.
Access to Public Transportation, Restaurants, and Other Public Places
A person using a service animal is not required to be separated from the animal when using public services or a public facility. A public facility includes a common carrier or any other public conveyance or mode of transportation; a hotel, motel, or other place of lodging; a college dormitory or other educational facility; a business to which the public is invited; a restaurant or other place where food is offered for sale to the public; and “any other place of public accommodation...to which the general public...is regularly, normally, or customarily invited.” Denying entry or service to a person with a service animal is a violation of these laws and carries significant penalties.
In addition, people who use a service animal and use public transportation do not have to pay an additional fare for the animal. Legislation also forbids making inquiries of a person with a service animal about the qualifications of the animal except to determine the basic type of assistance provided by the service animal. If a person’s disability is not readily apparent, employees of a facility may ask the person only whether the service animal is required because the person has a disability and what type of task or work the animal is trained to perform.
When accompanied by a trainer, service animals in training are afforded the same access rights as trained service animals that are with a person with a disability.
Service animals are permitted in medical clinics, examining rooms, hospital cafeterias, and hospital patient rooms.
Persons who use service animals are also entitled to full and equal access to all housing accommodations provided under state law. In addition, a service animal is exempt from pet deposits. A property with a “no animals” policy must allow a person who uses a service animal to keep the animal.
Refusing to rent or lease a property because a person uses a service animal is a violation of the law. The exception is a single-family residence whose occupants rent, lease, or furnish for compensation only one room.
Penalties for Discrimination
A person, including a firm, association, corporation, or other public or private organization, or their agent who violates a provision of this law, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $300 and 30 hours of community service. In addition, violation of the provisions is considered to be a deprivation of a person's civil liberties. A person who is so deprived can go to court for damages.
Penalties for Fraudulent Use of Animals
An animal that provides only comfort or emotional support is not considered a service animal. Further, in accordance with Human Resources Code Section 121.006(a), a person who uses a service animal with a harness or leash normally used by people with disabilities who use service animals, in order to represent the animal as a trained service animal when in fact the animal is not a trained service animal, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and if found guilty, will be punished by a fine of not more than $300 and 30 hours of community service.
A Service Animal User’s Responsibilities
A person who uses a service animal is responsible for any damages caused by the animal. The person using the animal shall keep the animal properly harnessed or leashed. If the person's disability does not permit the use of a harness, leash or tether, the animal must still be under the person's control.
Service Animal Information Card
The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) offers a service animal information card available to educate employees and management of a public facility about the laws in Texas regarding service animals. This information card addresses the rights of individuals who use service animals, includes what may be asked of the owner of a service animal and outlines the penalties for employees or employers who violate the law.
Print the service animal information card
Tarjeta de identificación de animal guía (Español)
Service Animal Informational Brochure
The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) offers a service animal brochure, “Rights and Responsibilities of People Using Service Animals,” which includes the material provided on this web page.
Service animal informational brochure: Accessible English PDF | Accesible PDF Español
Print the service animal informational brochure PDF Formatted for tri-fold
For more information, read the ADA on Service Animals or call DARS Inquiries at 1-800-628-5115.