Service Animal Guidance for Texans
This year the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD) has had a higher than usual number of questions regarding service animals. Some of the most common questions asked include:
- Can only dogs be service animals?
- Are there breed restrictions?
- Is professional training required?
- What questions can I ask (or someone ask me)?
- Is a vest required?
- Can I take my service animal to work?
- Are service animals allowed in a restaurant?
- Is registration required?
Answers to all these questions are found in federal law and are addressed in the U.S. Department of Justice’s guidance document Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA. Additional resource information is available on the GCPD website Key Laws and Resources page.
At the state level, Texas law requires public facilities and common transportation carriers like buses or airplanes to permit a person with a disability to be accompanied by their service/assistance dog. Additionally, the law provides that a trainer of service dogs can be accompanied by a service dog in training in these same locations for training purposes. Also, there is a criminal penalty for those who deny access to people with disabilities because of an assistance animal. Offenses are punishable by fines of not more than $300 and 30 hours of community service. For more information about Texas laws and service animals go to https://gov.texas.gov/
In addition, the state laws mentioned above apply to housing. Yet, in housing situations, landlords may ask for proof of disability and more. To learn more about service animals in housing, go to Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing
Lastly, in the employment arena, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has provided guidance that allowing an employee to bring a service animal to work may qualify as a reasonable accommodation for an individual with a disability. ADA Title II, State and Local Government and Title III, Public Accommodation, defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform specific tasks for people with disabilities. However, Title I of the ADA does not define “service animal.” Therefore, employers should address a request for a service or comfort animal just like any other accommodation request. Learn more on this subject from the Texas Workforce Commission’s Tips & Tools – About Service Animals or from the Job Accommodation Network’s Accommodation and Compliance Series Service Animals in the Workplace.