Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Nashville

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 14, 2021

An emotional support animal (ESA) is so much more than a pet: it has a unique, human-animal bond that allows it to offer support and comfort to people with all kinds of mental health issues or emotional trauma. Are you thinking of getting an emotional support animal in Nashville, Tennessee? Read on to learn all about how to get an ESA, what they do, and where to go together!

Emotional Support Animal in Nashville: Specific protection

There are three important pieces of legislation that you’ll need to know about before getting an emotional support animal in Nashville. These are the Air Carriers Access Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act.

These three Acts work together to protect the rights of Americans with disabilities at work, in rented accommodation, while traveling, and in public accommodation. One of the things that the Acts protect is the right of persons with disabilities to bring assistance animals into places where pets are not normally allowed.

Definition of Assistance Animal

Different icons of kinds of Assistance Animals

Before learning about what the Acts legislate on, it’s important to give a clear definition of the term “assistance animal.”

An assistance animal is a generic term describing any animal that helps people with disabilities. There are different categories of assistance animals, which are defined by what sort of assistance they offer, and to whom. The legislation is slightly different for each category, so it is important to know what kind of assistance animal you are hoping to get. The three main kinds of assistance animal are as follows:

  1. Service animals: service animals are highly trained, often by a charity or non-profit organization. Service animals perform tasks for people with disabilities, which can include being guide dogs or seeing-eye dogs for the blind, sensing seizures, or assisting people in wheelchairs with mobility-related tasks. Dogs are the most common service animals, because of their loyalty, intelligence, and trainability.
  2. Emotional support animals: emotional support animals  (also known as psychiatric service dogs or companion animals) do not need special training, but rather a strong human-animal bond. An ESA’s job is to give comfort and support to the health and wellbeing of people with a psychiatric disability or mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or anxiety. Any domesticated animal can be an emotional support animal, including dogs, cats, birds, and even miniature horses.
  3. Therapy animals: therapy animals are used in schools, hospitals, with veterans, and at care facilities for animal-assisted therapy.

The Acts discussed below afford the most protection to service animals. ESAs have some protection, while therapy animals are generally not covered.

How to get an Emotional Support Animal in Nashville: CertaPet’s simple 5 min process

  1. Do your research! Before getting an emotional support animal in Nashville, make sure you know what exactly ESAs are, what they do, and whether one could help you. CertaPet has lots of helpful resources for you to check out!
  2. See if you qualify for an ESA! Emotional support animals aren’t for everyone. Luckily, CertaPet has a free, 5-minute screening process that can help you assess if you are eligible for an emotional support animal.
  3. Connect with a licensed mental health professional! If an emotional support animal would be right for you, CertaPet can help connect you with an LMHP mental health professional in Tennessee. You can then get your ESA letter within 2 business days. It’s that simple!

An emotional support letter is an official document that proves your need for an ESA. It must be less than a year old and on letterhead paper or a prescription pad from a licensed medical doctor or mental health professional. The ESA letter must state the following:

  • That you have a diagnosed mental health condition or mental health-related disability
  • The emotional support animal accompanying you is necessary for your mental health or treatment
  • The type of animal you have as an ESA, and how many
  • That the issuer of the letter is a licensed medical doctor or mental health professional, and you are under their treatment or care for a mental health disability
  • The issuer’s license number, type of license, the license issue date, and the state or jurisdiction where it was issued.

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) protect people with disabilities from discrimination by commercial airlines.

One of the ACAA’s stipulations is that passengers must be able to travel with service animals and emotional support animals free of charge, even if the airline does not normally allow pets in the cabin.

Do bear in mind, however, that recently the majority of commercial airlines have tightened their rules regarding emotional support animals significantly. These new rules (which don’t apply to service dogs) may include one or more of the following:

  • Requiring passengers to provide an ESA letter and additional documentation, (e.g. a veterinarian’s certificate or shot records) up to 48 hours in advance of travel
  • Restricting emotional support animals that are not properly cleaned or do not behave properly (e.g. barking or growling at other customers)
  • Only allowing passengers to bring an emotional support dog or cat, not other animals (such as a miniature horse!)

Employment Laws

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects persons with disabilities against workplace discrimination. Part of this protection is allowing people with service dogs to bring them into the workplace. Employers must make “reasonable accommodation” to support them in doing so.

Although emotional support animals are not included in the ADA, many employers will allow them on a case-by-case basis with an ESA letter.

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

The Fair Housing Act is in place to protect tenants with disabilities from discrimination by landlords or housing providers. Landlords must make “reasonable accommodation” to support tenants with disabilities, including allowing service dogs and emotional support animals. Landlords are permitted to ask for an ESA letter, though.

ESA Campus Housing

University campus housing is also covered under the Fair Housing Act, so students with service dogs or emotional support animals are able to bring them along. However, some university housing providers may require a valid ESA letter before permitting emotional support animals.

Exception to Rules

All the Acts that we’ve discussed above are first and foremost in place to protect people with service animals. Emotional support animals are also protected, but not to the same extent.

As such, there are certain exceptions to the rules regarding ESAs. For example, an emotional service animal that is unclean or gives off a foul odor, or an animal that cannot behave properly in public, can be refused on grounds of health and safety.

Punishment for misrepresenting an assistance animal

Although Tennessee is not one of the states that punish misrepresenting an assistance animal, if you are found out to have falsely represented an emotional support animal in Nashville, you may be asked to leave your rented accommodation or place of work.

5 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

You’re nearly ready to get your emotional support animal in Nashville! Before you do though, make sure you brush up on the following facts:

  1. Although emotional support animals and service animals are both classed as assistance animals, they have different roles and are treated differently by the federal law. If you missed the full definitions above, make sure to go back and give them a read.
  2. An emotional support animal must be—and can only be—prescribed by a medical doctor or licensed mental health professional. They will do this by issuing an ESA letter. The MD or LMHP must hold a valid license that is specific to your state, and they must be treating you as a patient for a mental health issue.
  3. The only acceptable proof of your need for an emotional support animal is an ESA letter. You may see services that claim to “certify” or “register” your pet as an emotional support animal, but these are all scams. See below for more information on emotional support animal letters.
  4. ESAs aren’t required to wear tags, vests or harnesses, to identify them in public. However, it can still be useful to get one.
  5. Remember though: a vest or ID badge alone is not enough to identify an ESA—only an ESA letter can do that!

Emotional support dog in Nashville

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

The animal shelter can be a great place to find an amazing emotional support animal in Nashville. By adopting an adult dog, you will be able to get a better idea of the animal’s temperament. Try asking at the shelter which animals they think would be suitable.

Some people prefer to train their emotional support animals up from puppies, but remember that this could be hard work, and it may be a while before they know how to behave properly in public.

Where to Take your Emotional Support Animal

Once you have your emotional support animal, you two will want to go places together! ESAs are not granted the same access rights as service dogs, but there are still plenty of dog-friendly places to go with an emotional support animal in Nashville.

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

Dog runs are great places to take your emotional support dog and even emotional support cats (!) to run around and let off some steam. Nashville has some very popular dog runs, including Nutro Dog Park at Tower Park in Brentwood, Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin, and Shelby Dog Park in Nashville.

Dog-friendly restaurants and bars

You and your emotional support dog can grab a bite to eat at one of Nashville’s many dog-friendly restaurants and bars, such as Jackson’s Bar and Bistro, Calypso Cafe East Nashville and Double Dogs.

Resorts, fitness, and spas

If you’re planning a trip, why not go to one of Nashville’s many dog-friendly hotels and resorts, so you can bring your emotional support dog with you? Try The Hermitage Hotel, The Hayes Street Hotel or Homewood Suites Nashville Downtown.


Dog-friendly events are a great way to socialize your emotional support dog, and luckily Nashville has plenty! How about the Faux Paw Fashion Show at the Contest Stage, Bark in the Park at First Tennessee Park, or Wags N’ Waves at Nashville Shores in Hermitage?

ESAs in Nashville: How to Get Connected with an LMHP in Your City Today!

The most important step to getting an emotional support animal in Nashville is to get an ESA letter prescribed by a licensed mental health professional. CertaPet’s quick and easy process can take the hassle out of finding an LMHP, and you could have your ESA letter in as little as two business days.

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