To skip the helpful information below and go straight to asking me about an evaluation for an emotional support animal, click here.
Texas is a unique state in many ways, and one of these ways is that Texas state laws don’t recognize emotional support animals. Emotional support animals provide a sense of safety, companionship, and comfort, and the therapeutic benefits of pets have been studied. ESA’s aren’t individually trained to perform tasks or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability, and therefore fall outside the law in Texas.
Texas law doesn’t recognize the research that shows ESA’s are beneficial. This means that an ESA certification will not make it alright for you to take your ESA into a store, restaurant, or other public place in Texas, with a few exceptions. We’ll get to those exceptions in just a bit.
A “service” animal as recognized by both Texas and Federal law is an animal that is trained to perform tasks and do work for a person with a disability. Psychiatric service dogs are covered, as they’re trained to do certain things, like respond to their owner’s anxiety attacks by initiating contact. These dogs are even trained to alert an owner who is exercising poor judgment due to another disorder. ESA’s aren’t psychiatric service dogs. Service and psychiatric service dogs can go to any place Texas and Federal law define as public.
ESA’s are your pet, they don’t have or need special training, and they don’t require any sort of registration with some database of emotional support animals. A quick Google search reveals there are a hundred companies offering ESA certificates, but few take time to explain what I’m explaining here. They just want your money.
That same Google search will also show you there are a bunch of “ESA registries” for you to pay money to join. This isn’t necessary as ESA’s aren’t federally or state level regulated at all. It’s an additional 100 bucks for you to shell out thinking you’re covering all your bases.
An Emotional Support Animal IS:
Not specifically trained to assist with any particular task related to a disability
Does not need to join a registry
Does not need to have training
A ‘Service’ Animal IS:
Not just a pet
Trained specifically to assist your disability
Does require special training
Does require registry
All of that explained, ESA’s can still help you out – even if you’re in Texas. Texas and all other states must abide by two laws that affect your ability to have an ESA. One is the Fair Housing Act, and the other is the Air Carrier Access Act.
While you can’t take Fido to Walmart in the way that a diabetic alert service dog can be taken to Walmart, there is still some decent news.
If you live in public housing in Texas and their rule is of the “no pets” nature, you can still have a pet – if you meet certain criteria, and if flying to visit your Aunt Maple in Maine is likely to heighten anxiety and require your ESA’s presence to calm, you can take Fluffy on the plane (with some exceptions).
Fluffy can’t be a small horse or a snake – but she can be a dog or cat and still ride on a plane (and a few other small and hygienic creatures) if you have a letter certifying that you meet guidelines for an ESA.
What are the qualifiers for an ESA when flying?
- You must have a diagnosed mental or emotional disability as recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
- You need your ESA as an accommodation for air travel or activity at your destination
- You have an assessment by a licensed mental health professional, and are under the care of this professional
- The date and type of the mental health professional’s license and the state it is issued in must be provided in your ESA “proof letter”
What are the qualifiers for ESA in public housing?
If you live in public housing or housing covered by HUD or the FHAct or Section 504, the very strict guidelines of what is or isn’t a service animal need not be met to have an ESA. The FHAct doesn’t require an assistance animal to be individual trained or certified. You could be asked to sign documents stating you’ll be on the hook for any damages your ESA may cause to the property.
- You must have a diagnosed disability
- You must have a disability related need for an ESA
- Both 1 & 2 require a statement from a mental health professional
Do you need an ESA?
Maybe you live in an apartment and you’re desperate for a cat to snuggle with because you miss your mom, but you don’t have a diagnosable mental health condition. You don’t qualify for a letter for an ESA in that case. This doesn’t stop unscrupulous companies from offering to give you one anyway. You’ll fill out a quick questionnaire, have a 10-minute call with a psychiatrist, doctor, or some other professional who will diagnose you with whatever, put it in writing, charge your credit card and you’re all set.
For some, that’s the point – to circumvent the actual requirements with deceit. The clinicians who participate in this are not different than those who intentionally manipulate the laws. The clinicians may be worse – they are passing out diagnoses like candy, without thought to how their actions may affect others. Only so much property damage will befall public housing before the act is amended or reinterpreted and then no one, even those in need, will be permitted an ESA.
If you believe that you are living with a mental health condition that would benefit from an emotional support animal, then you should talk with your actual mental health provider instead of just surfing the net and paying money for a letter. The larger companies producing these letters aren’t well thought of. Your application for an ESA will be received much better if it comes from a mental health professional you’re already working with and isn’t some standard form letter from a big-name company cranking these letters out by the thousands.
If you are in Texas and in need of an evaluation for an Emotional Support Animal, hop on over to my Work With Me page and send a message.
I will send you a questionnaire to get you started and explain the process to you – all painless and fast (1 business day turn around). If you don’t meet criteria, you won’t be charged for this service. If you do, you’ll pay one fee of $99.00 for your evaluation and letter. Your letter will expire in one year and require renewal per law.
Having a pet for support can quite literally be life changing and saving – do your homework! Contact airlines and housing authorities to find out about specific requirements regarding what types of pets are acceptable and what you’ll need to travel or live with them.