Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary
Service Animal Policy

According to TEXAS Department of Rehabilitative Services (DARS) an employee of an establishment may ask ONLY two questions of a person with a service dog whose disability is not obvious:

  1. Is the service animal required because the visitor has a disability? 
  2. What type of work is the service dog trained to perform?

The indoor animal exhibit spaces, Animals of the World trail or any museum space that is being used for an animal encounter or educational program are off-limits to service dogs.

Definition of a Service Animal

IN THE STATE OF TEXAS and for the purposes of this policy, the term “service animal” means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks directly related to an individual’s disability.  Within the law, animals that are purely used to provide emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship are not considered “service animals” under this policy and will not be admitted to the Heard Natural Science Museum. 


The Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary is committed to complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and seeks to ensure every guest enjoys the facility. However, certain portions of the museum and grounds are off-limits to service animals, and the Heard Museum may refuse entry to any service animal that does not meet and follow the service animal standards and/or poses a direct threat to the health and safety of guests, staff or species within the animal collection.  Pets are not allowed on Heard Museum grounds under any circumstances. No other animals will be permitted to enter the Heard Museum or the grounds (monkeys, other exotic animals, donkeys, miniature horses, cats, rats, rabbits, chinchilla’s, birds, etc). 

Service dogs are excluded from indoor animal exhibit spaces, the Animals of the World trail or any museum space that is being used for an animal encounter or educational program.

Service Animal Rules

The following health and safety requirements are required in order to protect museum visitors and animal collections:

  • A service animal must be leashed and under guest control at all times. 
  • A service animal must be housebroken and in visibly good health.  This is especially important to keep potential health problems from spreading to the animal collection at the museum.
  • A service animal that reacts aggressively to the presence of people, or sounds, will be excluded from the museum and grounds.
  • If animals in the living collections become visibly upset or agitated by the service animal’s presence, the visitor and service animal must move out of the area immediately.  Signs of agitation may include: panting, barking, howling, growling, bumping into their exhibit windows or walls, running and/or jumping around the enclosure and/or erratic movements.  Determination of agitation will be up to the discretion of museum staff or trained docent volunteers.
  • Service animals are not allowed in certain areas of the museum that house animals that are especially vulnerable or sensitive to predator species. These animals would include: turtles/tortoises, snakes, ferret, prairie dog, hedgehog, flying squirrel, parrot, owl, dove, lemur, fox, coatimundi, deer, cavy, capybara and raccoon.
  • Guests with a service animal are not permitted to approach within 15 feet of a live animal educational or animal encounter program, including programs with reptiles, which occur outside of an exhibit such as during a special event when live educational animals are being presented.
  • The guest, or the service animal’s handler, is responsible for cleaning up any accidents the service animal has. The guest should also have the necessary cleaning supplies on hand.

Per Texas law: “A service animal in training shall not be denied admittance to any public facility when accompanied by an approved trainer who is an agent of an organization generally recognized by agencies involved in the rehabilitation of persons who are disabled as reputable and competent to provide training for assistance animals, and/or their handlers.”


Q25. When can service animals be excluded?
A. The ADA does not require covered entities to modify policies, practices, or procedures if it would “fundamentally alter” the nature of the goods, services, programs, or activities provided to the public.  Nor does it overrule legitimate safety requirements.  If admitting service animals would fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program, service animals may be prohibited.  In addition, if a particular service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or if it is not housebroken, that animal may be excluded.

Q26. When might a service dog's presence fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program provided to the public?
A. In most settings, the presence of a service animal will not result in a fundamental alteration.  However, there are some exceptions.  For example, at a boarding school, service animals could be restricted from a specific area of a dormitory reserved specifically for students with allergies to dog dander.  At a zoo, service animals can be restricted from areas where the animals on display are the natural prey or natural predators of dogs, where the presence of a dog would be disruptive, causing the displayed animals to behave aggressively or become agitated.  They cannot be restricted from other areas of the zoo.  

For more information about the ADA, please visit the ADA website.