Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Tennessee

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 16, 2021

emotional support animal in tennesseeGetting an emotional support animal in Tennessee can be life-changing as ESA are notorious for their ability to comfort those with emotional disabilities. Tennesseans suffering from PTSD to anxiety can speak to their licensed mental health professional for an emotional support animal. Read on to find out all you need to know about getting an emotional support animal in Tennessee!

Emotional Support Animal in Tennessee: Specific protection

If you’re looking at getting an emotional support animal in Tennessee, it is important that you know the rights, rules, and regulations when it comes to owning an emotional support animal in Tennesse.

Definition of Assistance Animal

By definition, an assistance animal consists of, service animals and emotional support animals ESA. However, Service animals are trained to help the disabled with specific tasks.

Boy in a wheelchair with a service dog inside a room in Tennessee

Examples of service animals include dogs trained to assist the blind and wheelchair-bound. In contrast, emotional support animals in Tennesse are not trained to perform a specific task and are simply there to provide companionship and comfort to people with sometimes undetectable disabilities.

Unfortunately, emotional support animals are not protected by the ADA nor Tennessee’s service animal law. According to the ADA and Tennessee service animal law, an emotional support animal is not allowed in public areas such as restaurants, supermarkets, or malls. However, a guide dog will have provision to enter these public areas. Fortunately, there are laws in place that help protect ESAs! This includes the ACAA and FHA.

How to get an Emotional Support Animal in the State of Tennessee: CertaPet’s simple 5 min process

Happy man holding an emotional support dog outdoors in Tennessee

If you’re getting an emotional support animal in Tennessee, take advantage of Certapet’s free and simple 5-minute process to see if you qualify.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are for individuals suffering from emotional or mental disabilities. These disabilities may range from anxiety to Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and must be diagnosed by a Licensed Mental Health Professional. This health professional will supply you with an ESA letter which:

  • Recognizes that you are under the care of a licensed mental health professional for a mental or emotional disability on a case-by-basis basis
  • Confirms your limitations due to an individual disability which affects your mental well-being, such as anxiety or depression
  • Provides a prescription for an emotional support animal or companion animals to assist your individual need.

It is important to note that:

  • Licensed Mental Health Professionals will prescribe an Emotional Support Animal to those patients deemed eligible
  • An ESA is not a service animal
  • CertaPet connects patients with LMHPs licensed to practice in their states
  • ‘Emotional Support Animal Certifications’ are a misnomer. Certification Services are not legitimate, and these certificates are worthless
  • An ESA is not required to be registered with any ‘Emotional Support Animal Registration’ service.

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

The Air Carrier Access Act applies to disabled persons flying with their emotional support animals on commercial airlines. Your main responsibility is to ensure you have the documentation specifically required by your carrier. Additionally, you will need to notify the airline carrier 48 hours before your intended flight.

Typically, flying with your ESA requires a recent ESA letter on the letterhead of your licensed mental health professional. This letter explains the disability and the need for the ESA. Carriers may not charge the passenger an additional fee for the ESA.

Employment Laws

Since the ADA and Tennessee’s service animal law preclude emotional support animals, public accommodations do not have to allow ESAs. Allowing a disabled employee to have an emotional support animal accompany them to work may be considered an accommodation.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the employment provisions of the ADA but has no specific regulation on ESA. If the disability is not obvious, employers may request documentation of the disability and how the animal helps the individual perform the job. This applies also when the reason the animal is needed is not clear.

Documentation could describe ways in which the animal helps the employee to carry out job tasks and how the animal is trained to behave in the workplace.  A trial may be requested to ascertain the appropriateness of the ESA to the job tasks and workplace. Service and emotional support animals may be excluded if they pose an undue hardship or a direct threat in the workplace.

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

The federal Fair Housing Act protects prospective tenants from discrimination based on their physical or mental disability. Landlords are required to allow tenants to live with their emotional support animal without charging a pet deposit. Landlords may request documented proof of the disability requiring reasonable accommodation for the ESA which needs not itself be certified.

ESA Campus Housing

While the FHA supersedes these regulations, state campuses seem to have varying rules regarding ESAs on campus.

The University of Tennessee Chattanooga permits assistance animals on campus to facilitate students’ full participation, use, and enjoyment of programming and activities. The Tennessee State University does not specifically mention ESA in their campus living guide. The guide prohibits pets in the residence facility. The only exceptions are guide dogs for the disabled and a smallish aquarium housing only fish.

Exception to Rules

Laws protect all parties involved. Emotional support or companion animals may be denied or asked to be removed in cases where the animal’s presence:

  • poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot otherwise be reasonably reduced or eliminated, or
  • would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation
  • could impose an undue financial or administrative burden
  • would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing provider’s services

Exceptions to the FHA include:

  • buildings with four or fewer units, where the landlord is resident in one
  • private owners who do not own more than three single-family houses and do not use estate agents or discriminatory advertisements

Punishment for misrepresenting an assistance animal

Tennessee is not among the nineteen American states in which the law punishes the misrepresentation of assistance animals.

4 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

  1. Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Tennessee does not restrict you to a dog or cat
  2. Your pet could well be deemed appropriate as your emotional support animal by your licensed health professional
  3. Your ESA will need you as much as you need it. Remember that this animal will rely on you for its care, food, water, and welfare
  4. Make sure you can live with the type of animal you choose. Lifestyle is an important consideration when choosing an ESA.

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

So now that you’re getting an emotional support animal in Tennessee, you may be wondering—where do you start looking for one?

The animal shelters and local humane societies are chockablock with animals eager to be your support animal. These would be an excellent place to start. Your local pet shops might be helpful. If you are looking for a somewhat unusual domestic animal other than a dog or cat, ask your local petting zoo for advice.

Where to Take your Emotional Support Animal

Tennessee is verily brimming with pet-friendly spots for you to visit with your ESA:

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

  • Centennial Dog Park, Nashville
  • Fenway’s Dog Park at Moss-Wright Park
  • Harlinsdale Farm, Franklin

Dog-friendly restaurants and bars

Before taking your emotional support animal to public eateries, be sure that your animal is ready for the experience. There’s much to be said for adequate socializing and an animal whose behavior suits the occasion.

  • Blue Plate, Chattanooga
  • Deli On The Square, Memphis
  • Jackson’s Bar and Bistro, Nashville

Resorts, fitness, and spas

When using public resources and spots in Tennessee, clean up after your ESA and make sure that he is fed and watered adequately. This will ensure a pleasant time for you, your ESA and your fellow visitors.

  • Raccoon Mountain RV Park, Chattanooga
  • Renaissance Park
  • Shelby Bottoms Greenway, Nashville


Tennessee is not short of animal, particularly dog-friendly, cities and many local events that are considered pet-friendly. While most outdoor events in Tennessee are pet-friendly, check the event website to make sure and then take along whatever you’ll need to make your outing pleasant: water, snacks, and bags to clean up after your pet.

Musicians Corner and Live on the Green in Nashville are among the pet-friendly events which recur throughout the year.

ESAs in Tennessee: How to Get Connected with an LMHP in Your State Today!

CertaPet puts you in touch with an LMHP who can practice in Tennessee. This is a great option for those with serious disabilities (both mentally and physically) who can’t leave the house but are in desperate need of an ESA letter.

You can easily ensure that you have a valid ESA letter for your emotional support animal in Tennessee with Certapet.

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