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Emotional Support Animal Tennessee: Laws & Regulations
Having an emotional support animal (ESA) can make a world of difference for someone struggling with an emotional or mental disability by providing several therapeutic benefits.
In many states, ESAs are granted certain privileges and rights, such as fair housing. In Tennessee, however, these rights are limited. Tennessee offers more protection for service animals, such as guide dogs, than they do for ESAs.
In many cases, public access to business establishments for ESAs is grouped in with pet access–it’s at the description of the business owner. This article will cover what an ESA is, how to obtain an ESA letter in Tennessee, and Tennessee laws that protect ESAs and their owners.
Emotional Support Animal Tennessee: Different Laws
While Tennessee recognizes the need and value of ESAs, Tennessee law makes more accommodations and distinctions for guide dogs, a type of service animal, rather than ESAs. Tennessee does yield to federal law, specifically the Fair Housing Act, in which ESAs and their owners are protected from housing discrimination.
Emotional Support Animal: Definition
While pets certainly provide emotional support to many people, they are not prescribed specifically to help treat any mental illness or emotional disabilities. An ESA is an animal that a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) or medical doctor (MD) deems is necessary for a person’s treatment.
Any animal can be an ESA, such as a dog, a cat, a fish, a snake, as well as many other types of creatures. Though ESAs help support an individual with an emotional disability or mental illness, they are not specially trained to perform special tasks, such as how service animals are individually trained, nor do they have the same legal rights.
The only way to have an ESA is to obtain an official ESA letter from an MD or LMHP stating your need for one. This ESA letter may grant certain access and accommodations for you and the ESA that typical pets would not be granted such as, housing in buildings that are normally not considered pet friendly.
How many emotional support animals can a person have? There is no limit to how many ESAs one person can have, as long as each animal plays a different role in treatment, and all animals are deemed medically necessary. You must have an ESA letter for each animal.
Emotional Support Animal Tennessee Laws: What To Know
Although Tennessee must oblige by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines, there is more protection offered to service animals than ESAs.
More specifically, under the ADA, people with disabilities can bring their service animals to all public venues, such as stores, hotels, schools, and other businesses, but Tennessee laws are more limited–they apply only to dog guides Therefore, ESAs have even less legal rights.
Under the Fair Housing Act, a federal law, Tennessee landlords are required to recognize ESAs and allow them to live with their owner without the owner incurring a pet fee. You may be asked to provide proof of your mental disability and/or an ESA letter.
The Air Carrier Access Act originally allowed ESAs to travel in airplane cabins with their owners at no additional cost. However, as of 2020, these laws have changed.
Currently, some ESAs may be allowed to fly in the airplane cabin with their owners, but they are treated as pets–and there may be an additional pet fee. This is at the discretion of individual airlines. Call ahead and find out what an airline’s policies are before traveling with your ESA.
ESA Letter: What Can It Do?
In Tennessee, an ESA letter can only be provided by either a LMHP, such as a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist, or an MD. Friends, relatives, teachers, and other professionals are not qualified to provide ESA letters.
If you do not have an MD or LMHP, you can read the Certapet review to help connect you with one who can write an ESA letter for you. Certapet is one of the best legitimate ESA letter online resources.
The ESA letter itself serves as validation or “proof” that your animal is an emotional support animal, not just a pet. This letter can be shown to landlords to allow for fair accommodations as the landlord.
An ESA letter can also be shown to airlines and business owners to verify your need for an ESA. That being said, airlines and business owners are not obligated by law to allow access or accommodations for ESAs.
ESA Letter In Tennessee: Who Qualifies For It?
Anyone struggling with emotional or mental disabilities may qualify for an ESA, and therefore, should be able to obtain an ESA letter from a LMHP or MD. Some of the mental health conditions that may qualify a person include:
- Panic Attacks.
- Bipolar Disorder.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Please note that the LMHP or MD will make the determination if you need an ESA as part of your treatment, therefore, having a mental health condition does not necessarily guarantee you will be eligible for one. It is determined on a case-by-case basis.
4 Steps To Help You Acquire An ESA Letter In Tennessee
- Answer the questionnaires that online ESA-letter services provide.
- Consult a LMHP or MD with a valid Tennessee practicing license.
- If you have a diagnosis from a previous LMHP or MD, you can provide the documentation of your diagnosis to a new LMHP or MD to support your request for an ESA letter.
- Ask the LMHP or MD to write an ESA letter on their letterhead. This letter should include all contact information and the license number of the provider.
Locations In Tennessee To Bring Your Emotional Support Animal
Bars And Restaurants In Tennessee
- Deli On The Square, Memphis.
- The Stage on Broadway, Nashville.
- Tennessee Brew Works, Nashville.
- Frothy Monkey, Nashville.
- Urban Grub, Nashville.
- Celtic Crossing, Memphis.
Parks In Tennessee
Animals are allowed in many Tennessee national parks, however, they may not be permitted in every area of each park.
- Fenway’s Dog Park at Moss-Wright Park.
- Cummins Falls.
- Rocky Fork.
- Long Hunter.
- Radnor Lake.
Tennessee has an open and accepting view of ESAs, recognizing their role in supporting mental health for many individuals. However, Tennessee state laws are limited in ESA rights and protection; more privileges are granted to service animals. A service animal is specially trained to perform tasks to assist an individual with physical disabilities or a mental illness; ESAs are not.
Under the Fair Housing Act, a federal law, Tennessee housing providers cannot discriminate against ESAs and must allow them to live with their owners without an additional pet fee (though a valid ESA letter may be required).
Access to public places, including businesses and airlines, however, is left to the discretion of the business owners and airlines, respectively, and may be subject to additional fees.
Frequently Asked Questions
It depends on the restaurant. Many restaurants in Tennessee, especially in major cities such as Nashville and Memphis, have many pet-friendly establishments where ESAs are welcome.
Yes. A LMHP or MD will need to make this recommendation and write you an ESA letter for each ESA. Each ESA must serve a different function in your treatment.
No. Any animal can be an ESA. However many laws and recognitions tend to favor dogs, especially guide dogs. But an ESA can be any animal that supports your mental well-being.
Service animals are specifically trained to perform certain tasks, such as alerting medical emergencies, retrieving items, and guiding the visually impaired. ESAs are not trained in this way. ESAs are any animals that provide emotional support as part of treatment for an emotional or mental disability.
This is entirely dependent on the airline. Tennessee law does not have a policy for this, specifically.
Many online sites offer free ESA assessments and can pair you with a LMHP or MD who can evaluate your case and write you an ESA letter.
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- ADA.gov. (2023). Service Animals. [online] Available at: https://www.ada.gov/topics/service-animals/.
- Admin (2019). Emotional Support Animal Laws – Tennessee. [online] US Service Animals Blog. Available at: https://usserviceanimals.org/blog/emotional-support-animal-laws-tennessee/.
- Bell (n.d.). HOUSE BILL 1190 Title 44, Chapter 17; Title 44, Chapter 8, Part 4; Title 63; Title 66 and Title 68, relative to landlords and tenants. BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE. [online] Available at: https://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/111/Bill/SB1393.pdf.
- Adata.org. (2023). New Rules: Service Animals and the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) | ADA National Network. [online] Available at: https://adata.org/event/new-rules-service-animals-and-air-carriers-access-act-acaa.
- servicedog (2017). Emotional Support Dog Requirements. [online] Service Dog Certifications. Available at: https://www.servicedogcertifications.org/emotional-support-dog-requirements/#:~:text=You%20can%20qualify,stress%20disorder%20(PTSD).