Emotional support animals (ESAs) are defined as dogs, cats, and other animals that provide emotional support to those with a mental or physical disability. In Tennessee, an ESA can be many species of animal, not just dogs and cats as the general public may think. The point of owning an emotional support assistant is to give support to those with mental or physical disabilities, such as people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and other conditions.
Though they may sound similar, an emotional support animal is not the same as a service animal. A service animal is a dog or other animal that is trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. An emotional support animal is not trained to perform any task and is often kept by its owner as a pet.
Even so, emotional support animals are typically allowed in public places that would otherwise be off-limits to regular pets, such as restaurants, grocery stores, banks, and movie theaters. They can help alleviate the symptoms of mental and physical disabilities, like soothing their owner in the case of a panic attack. An ESA helps their owner by giving them companionship and a sense of calmness in times of stress.
Understanding Emotional Support Animal Certification in Tennessee
Although an emotional support animal does not require the same rigorous training and certification as a service animal, it still requires its owner to meet certain criteria. When it comes to Tennessee and most other states in the US, this comes in the form of an ESA letter.
An ESA letter is something that can only be requested from a licensed mental health professional (LMHP), such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker. It is a document that states that the ESA is considered to be medically necessary for the owner to live in an appropriate environment.
When applying to get an ESA letter, an LMHP will take a look at your diagnosis and see if your conditions debilitate you enough to call for an ESA. If they determine that you have a medical condition that is considerably disabling, then they will most likely give you an ESA letter.
Tennessee laws state that your ESA letter must be given by an LMHP who is also stationed in Tennessee. In order to get this letter, you must be a resident of Tennessee, as well. A good thing is that this process takes very little time, and you can expect a letter to be done within two days at most. However, each letter is only valid for twelve months, and afterwards, you will have to apply for a new one. However, the ESA letter does not have to be accompanied by a veterinarian’s certification or proof of any other sort of training or experience.
You should note that the rights given to service animals are not always also extended to emotional support animals. Therefore, make sure you do ample research on whether your letter of ESA grants your emotional support animal certain rights.
TomTom has always loved to write since he was little - he wanted to be either a writer or a veterinary doctor, but he ended up being a professional writer while most of his works are based on animals. He was born in San Francisco but later moved to Texas to continue his job as a writer. He graduated from the University of San Francisco where he studied biotechnology. He is happily married and a soon to be father!
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