Emotional support animals (ESAs) have special privileges in the State of Texas under federal laws. These animals are not considered pets.; they are assistance animals for people with mental and emotional health issues. Housing providers have to accommodate owners of emotional support animals free of charge as a necessity for their health condition. 

What’s more, unlike regular pets, you don’t have to pay any extra deposits or fees for housing. ESAs are also exempt from building policies regarding size or breed. These rights are given under the Fair Housing Act and guidance from the U.S. Department of Housing and apply to the State of Texas. 

Any domesticated animals can be kept as an ESA in the home, including dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, fish, hamsters, and turtles. In this article, we’ll explain how you can qualify for an emotional support animal in Texas. If you’re already prepared to see if you qualify for an ESA with a Texas licensed mental health professional, you can start by completing the questionnaire at the link below. If you qualify, you will receive an ESA letter from a healthcare professional licensed for Texas that you can use to obtain accommodation for your emotional support animal.

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Overview of Texas Emotional Support Animal Laws

Emotional support cat in Texas in cowboy hat next to pumpkins - ESA Doctors
If you have an ESA letter, you have rights as the owner of an emotional support animal under federal law. (Image by kittynamedringo)

Assistance animals have rights under various laws, including the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Both are federal laws that apply to every state in the U.S., including Texas. 

The ADA governs service animals that have specialized training to assist people with both physical or mental disabilities. Emotional support animals, however, are not the same as psychiatric service dogs. ESAs do not need special training and provide comfort for those experiencing mental or emotional distress just by being present around their owners. 

Emotional support animal owners have rights under the federal Fair Housing Act, which mandates that landlords reasonably accommodate tenants who require an assistance animal. 

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Texas Emotional Support Animal Housing Laws

Texas emotional support dog housing - ESA Doctors
Housing laws allow emotional support animals to live with their owners without additional fees.

If you own an emotional support animal and reside in Texas, you have certain rights for housing that protect you from discrimination due to your mental or emotional disability-related need for an assistance animal. 

Housing providers such as landlords, condos, co-ops, and HOAs must reasonably accommodate ESAs, even if the building has an outright ban on pets. ESAs are exempt from normal pet policies. That means restrictions on size, weight, breed, and number of pets do not apply to emotional support animals. ESA owners also do not have to pay any additional fees (including application fees) or deposits to live with their ESA. 

However, there are limits to these rights. After all, the accommodation by the housing provider has to be reasonable. An emotional support animal must be domesticated and well-behaved. This means that you cannot bring a wild or aggressive animal into an apartment. Your ESA also can’t pose any health or safety hazard to other residents. 

Not all landlords have to comply with ESA rules. Certain small housing providers are exempt, such as owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units and single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent. Before you consider a new home for your ESA, you should consider whether the landlord has to comply with ESA rules. 

In addition, you cannot bring your emotional support animal into your new home unannounced and expect everyone in a no-pet housing complex will comply. You must submit a request for accommodation to your landlord in advance and provide a copy of your ESA letter. 

It’s important to ensure you have the proper documentation for your emotional support animal, as landlords in Texas are aware of what constitutes valid paperwork for an emotional support animal. Landlords have every right to validate if you have a true emotional support animal by requesting an ESA letter from you. 

Qualifying for an ESA Letter in Texas

To have a legally recognized emotional support animal in the Lone Star State, you need an ESA letter from a healthcare professional licensed in Texas. You can request one from your current healthcare professional responsible for your mental health. You can also use online healthcare professionals who specialize in emotional support animals and offer their services remotely, so you don’t have to leave your home. 

The licensed healthcare professional will determine if you have a mental or emotional health disability that substantially limits a major life activity. Qualifying conditions include PTSD, anxiety, depression, phobias, autism, and learning disorders. The healthcare professional will further determine whether an emotional support animal can help alleviate symptoms of that particular mental or emotional health disability. 

If you’re a Texas resident, your ESA letter should come from a healthcare professional that is licensed for Texas. If you need help from a licensed professional specializing in emotional support animal recommendations, ESA Doctors is your best option online. ESA Doctors offers a stress-free, confidential and convenient way to see if you qualify for an ESA letter that you can use to exercise rights as an ESA owner. Just click on the link below to get started.

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