Emotional support animals (ESA) can provide significant mental and emotional benefits to individuals with certain mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In Texas, individuals with disabilities have the right to live with their emotional support animals in most types of housing, thanks to federal law. In this article, we will explain what rights ESA owners have in the Lone Star State and how you can qualify for an emotional support animal. 

ESA Housing Rights in Texas

If you own an emotional support animal in Texas, you are legally protected against discrimination due to your need for an ESA. Texans enjoy these rights under the federal Fair Housing Act and guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Housing

Texans with emotional support animals have the following rights:

  • The ability to have their animal in no-pet buildings. 
  • Exemption from pet fees, pet deposits, and pet application fees. 
  • Exemption from breed, size, and weight restrictions.

Texas ESA owners have these rights regardless of whether they own or rent their living space. 

Note that while ESA owners can have any breed of dog or cat, not all animals can be ESAs. The animal must be a dog, cat, fish, gerbil, rabbit, hamster, bird, or other small, domesticated animal. 

Emotional support hamster at home under a blanket
Any small domesticated animal, such as a dog, cat, fish, bird, or hamster, can be an emotional support animal.

Legally Qualifying for an ESA in Texas

To qualify for an emotional support animal in Texas, the tenant must have an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional. The healthcare provider can be someone like a doctor, counselor, nurse practitioner, psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker. 

To be able to help you, the provider must be licensed to work in the state of Texas. You are allowed to use online providers in Texas. That means you can obtain an ESA letter without office visits. 

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When Landlords can Reject an ESA in Texas

Landlords in Texas do not always have to accept an emotional support animal. Some landlords are exempt from Fair Housing rules. That includes owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units and single-family homes sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent. 

Your ESA can also be rejected if your ESA letter is invalid. That is why choosing the right source for your ESA letter is important. 

Lastly, your ESA can also be evicted if it is posing a threat to others. Landlords do not have to tolerate an emotional support animal that compromises the health or safety of others. That is why it’s important to have a well-trained and well-behaved ESA, even though there are no special training requirements for emotional support animals. 

Texas ESA Cases

Improperly denying a tenant’s emotional support animal can lead to legal consequences. For example, in one case, a federal judge ruled that a Texas housing provider violated the FHA by denying a woman with depression the right to live with her ESA. The judge ordered the property to allow the woman to have her ESA and to pay damages for emotional distress.

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