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New Tennessee ESA Law (March 2024): What It Could Mean for ESA Owners

Dining out or going to the grocery store with your emotional support animal in Tennessee may soon be curtailed. A new bill, Senate Bill 1595, making its way through the Tennessee legislature, seeks to establish a clearer distinction between service animals and Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). 

This legislation could notably impact where ESAs are allowed, specifically excluding them from indoor restaurants and other indoor food service establishments, such as hotels and supermarkets.

Here’s what you need to know about the bill and how it might affect you and your furry friend.

Table of Contents

Dissecting the Bill for TN ESA Owners

The proposed bill, championed by Republican Senator Page Walley and Republican Representative Kirk Haston, aims to tighten regulations around the presence of animals in food service establishments. 

The primary goal is to ensure that only certain types of service animals, which meet specific criteria, can accompany their owners inside restaurants. This means emotional support animals, which do not undergo the same level of training as service animals, would not be allowed in dining areas.

The Distinction Between ESAs and Service Animals

At the heart of this bill is the distinction between emotional support animals and service animals. Service animals, as defined by this new legislation, are “individually trained or being trained by an employee or puppy raiser from a recognized training agency or school to serve an individual with a disability.” 

This definition underscores the necessity for service animals to undergo rigorous training to assist with specific disabilities effectively. In contrast, emotional support animals, which provide comfort through their presence, do not typically undergo such specialized training.

Exemptions and Implications of Senate Bill 1595

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The bill makes exceptions for certain animals, including patrol dogs accompanying law enforcement officers and trained service animals. This distinction emphasizes the importance of training and certification for animals assisting individuals in public spaces. For ESAs that do not have training or are not in the process of being trained, the bill presents a clear barrier to accessing restaurants with their owners.

What the Tennessee ESA Law Means for ESA Owners

For owners of emotional support animals in Tennessee, this bill signals a shift in how ESAs are recognized in public establishments. The inability to bring ESAs into restaurants highlights the need for awareness and understanding of the differences between ESAs and service animals. It also underscores the importance of proper training for those animals that can qualify as service animals.

Moving Forward with I Train Academy

For those in Tennessee with ESAs, all hope is not lost. American Service Pets offers a dog training solution through our I Train Academy, an online service dog training program. This program provides the necessary obedience and task training skills for your dog to potentially qualify as a psychiatric assistance or service dog.

With training modules designed to meet the criteria set forth by new legislation, and certificates issued upon completion, I Train Academy can help ensure that your dog remains by your side—even in restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, and other indoor food service establishments in Tennessee.

The pending Tennessee bill brings to light the evolving landscape of service animal regulations. While it poses new challenges for ESA owners wishing to dine out with their animals, it also opens up avenues for training and certification that can bridge the gap between ESAs and service animals. 

By embracing the training opportunities available, ESA owners can adapt to these changes, ensuring their animals are not just beloved companions but also recognized service animals capable of accompanying them in more public spaces.

Need More Convincing on I Train Academy? A Few Reviews

“I’m very pleased with the kind & respectful way everyone was to talk to about everything my dog & I needed. They had all the answers to my questions about everything. Now I’m doing the Service Dog Training with my dog. We should be done in a few more days. I ordered his Service Dog Vest Kit. I’m looking forward to getting it. This is a GRRREAT PLACE TO DEAL WITH. I RATE THEM A10 out of 10” – Becky in Illinois

“I have found this program to be very satisfying to participate in. The videos are short and very well made. I felt pretty great when I was able to pass the first quiz and progress to the next level of training. I can see that my dog, Baby, is enjoying it also, as she now sits and waits to prompt me to train her throughout the day. (And I am sure that it isn’t, as I first thought, just to get treats!) I would recommend anyone to try this program!” – Sheri in Utah

“Processing and delivery of items was received in a timely manner. Online training was good, I was really impressed with the questions and test. Items received were also impressive. Patty is happy with her new items.” – Carole in Georgia

“My dog is doing very well with his training. Heel inside the home is very different outside. I have him socializing more. Today I took him to the river and had him go up and over a picnic table. He’s done having treats for doing his objective properly now I have bought new toys to enhance his experience. He is in the heel, sit, down position, any one of the above and I am able to tell him to down throw the toy and he will stay there until I tell break. This program is absolutely fantastic. My dog is an American pit bull named Diezel. I am very happy with his progression, thanks Jas!” – Lori in Iowa

Read more American Service Pets reviews here >>

ESA or PSA Certification?

The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!


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