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Summary of Legislation: This legislation provides that a food service establishment, retail food store, public facility, retail business, commercial establishment, office, or other entity regulated under this chapter may not deny an assistance animal admittance. Service animals are extended to include service for “developmental disabilities and PTSD”. This legislation changes the offense for discrimination from a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of “not less than $300 or community service” to not more than $300 and 30 hours of community service. The punishment for falsifying a disability claim is a fine of not more than $300 and 30 hours community service.
Analysis: A Service animal as defined by the Department of Justice following the Americans with Disabilities Act is a dog which is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Federal Law states that Service animals must be allowed to go anywhere their handler goes; this includes all of the places and situations that this legislation enumerates. This legislation addresses the possibility that a service animal may not necessarily be a dog and expands the definition of disability under state statute. Much of this legislation is duplicative and could be simplified by simply addressing the service animal definition and PTSD and mental disability qualifications.
While this legislation benefits personal liberty of those Texans with disabilities who use service animals, adding mandatory community service to the penalty for violation is excessive and not in alignment with limited government. Due to this conflict of our liberty principles, we remain neutral on this legislation.