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How to Get an ESA Letter in Tennessee: A Complete Guide2023-03-16
Emotional support animals change the lives of thousands throughout the country every day. Despite that, there are still a lot of misunderstandings surrounding them. Owners are often bombarded with uncomfortable questions or confronted when they want to bring their support animal into public spaces. With an ESA letter, you can navigate these circumstances far easier. It's an official document that proves the necessity of your support animal.
If you have questions about ESA letters in Tennessee, you're in the right place. This guide will take you through everything you need to know, from who can write one and the benefits of getting one right down to the relevant legislation. Let's get into it.
Do You Qualify for an ESA Letter in Tennessee?
Qualifying for an ESA isn't particularly complicated but requires you to go through official channels to confirm you have a valid need for an ESA. If you have a mental health issue, such as PTSD or depression, you may qualify. A licensed mental health provider will need to assess your condition.
This same professional can also write your ESA letter for you. It is often best to acquire your letter from the same professional that assigned your ESA in the first place. They will better understand your needs so that the letter more accurately reflects your condition and need for an emotional support animal. Going through the same provider also confirms that you’ve tried various methods and that an ESA would be the best treatment option.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in Tennessee?
Only a licensed mental health professional can provide a legitimate ESA letter in Tennessee. If written by anyone else, your letter may not be credible. Going through an unlicensed third-party provider will exempt you from many associated benefits.
Some providers who can help with this include:
- Physicians Assistants
- Licensed Counselors
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses
- Licensed Clinical Social Workers
Unfortunately, an increase in unvetted third-party providers has allowed numerous people to get taken advantage of, tricking unsuspecting pet owners into purchasing fraudulent letters. The risks are higher online, where unauthorized sellers charge high amounts for a fake letter.
You can go through a telehealth provider to qualify for an ESA letter. However, the healthcare provider you acquire your letter from must have a valid license for the state where they practice.
What's Inside a Tennessee ESA Letter?
Once you find a licensed health professional to write your ESA letter, it’s important they understand what the letter should contain. Without the correct information, your letter won't be legitimate.
Although emotional support animals are increasingly common in the United States, it may still be the case that your chosen healthcare provider has never written an ESA letter before.
For guidance, a legitimate ESA letter must include the following:
- The license type and number of your healthcare professional
- The date that their license was issued
- Their complete contact information (including the address of their practice)
- The state in which they have a license to practice
- The date they issued the letter
The provider must print the letter on their official letterhead for verification purposes. Feel free to bring this list into your appointment, so they fully understand what is required. They will probably be grateful for the guide!
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in Tennessee
In the same way that your emotional support animal provides you with benefits, an ESA letter in Tennessee can do the same for you and your support animal. The letter can let you take advantage of certain rights and privileges that regular pet owners don’t have.
Saves You Money
With an ESA letter, your animal becomes exempt from usual pet fees, providing a low-entry way to save money. The savings include pet deposits, pet rent, and other pet-related application fees.
Though these may not seem like enormous savings initially, they add up. Considering the high costs of mental health care, any way to save is worth it.
Grants Access to Otherwise Restricted Places
With an ESA letter, you’re far more likely to gain access to places that otherwise wouldn't be pet-friendly. That could include coffee shops or even hotels.
However, it's worth remembering emotional support animals aren't granted the same legal protections as service animals. Businesses have no legal obligation to give access to your animal on their premises.
Still, many business owners in Tennessee should be sympathetic, and owning an ESA letter will help your case.
Helps Your Chances of Flying With Your ESA
Your ESA letter might also help you bring your companion on flights. Due to the Air Carrier Access Act changes in 2020, emotional support animals no longer have guaranteed accommodations on flights. However, some airlines may be sympathetic, especially if you present your official ESA letter before your flight. It isn't a guarantee, but it's a step in the right direction.
Allows You to Live With Your ESA
Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords can’t discriminate against you based on the presence of your support animal. The reason is that ESAs technically aren’t pets but assistance animals, even if they don’t have the same protected status as service animals.
It means you can apply for a property for rental even if the description states that no pets are allowed.
Different ESA laws in Tennessee make living with your ESA and other benefits available.
Emotional Support Animal Laws in Tennessee
Although emotional support animals don't receive the same legal protections as service animals, they still benefit from some legislation. Listed below is some crucial information on the law and your ESA.
The Fair Housing Act
Written to protect people from discrimination when renting or buying a home, the Fair Housing Act covers race, nationality, religion, sex (including gender orientation), and the presence of your emotional support animal. The FHA is a federal act that applies to all US states, including Tennessee.
The FHA makes it illegal in Tennessee for a landlord to deny you the rental of a property based on the presence of your ESA. The only times they can claim credible exemption from this law is if the landlord can prove your emotional support animal would present a public danger. They can also charge you if, and only if, your animal damages the property.
Besides these few exceptions, federal law requires landlords in Tennessee to accommodate emotional support animals. An official ESA letter backs up your claim that your companion is a legitimate ESA.
Changes to the Air Carrier Access Act
As of December 2020, emotional support animals no longer have protection under the Air Carrier Access Act, which removed the requirement for airlines to accommodate ESAs on flights.
However, this doesn't mean you can’t fly with your ESA. Some airlines are more sympathetic than others, and it's always worth asking ahead of your flight whether or not you'll be permitted.
Service Animals and ESAs Are Different
Service animals and emotional support animals are entirely classifications under the law. Service animals receive many protections from the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Read any legal information carefully to ensure that the written policy mentions emotional support animals specifically. Otherwise, it may not apply to them.
How to Get an ESA Letter in Tennessee: A Step-by-Step Guide
Below is a complete step-by-step guide on acquiring a letter for emotional support animals in Tennessee. It might be a less complicated process than you expect.
1. Prepare for Your Appointment
One of the most nerve-wracking aspects of any appointment with a healthcare professional is finding the right words to describe your situation. But if you aren’t convincing, your LMHP might not accurately diagnose your condition and need for an ESA.
An excellent way to prevent this is to prepare ahead of time. Write down why you believe you would benefit from an ESA letter and how it could assist you in your daily life. You could even use this article as inspiration! Feel free to bring a small notebook or list to your appointment to remember everything.
2. Describe Why You Need the Letter
Once you've arranged your appointment with your healthcare provider, mention everything you wrote down. You don't need to overload them with information, but it's essential that they understand why owning an ESA letter would be vital to you, as they may be unfamiliar. You could be the first person they've written one for, so don’t be worried about spelling it out!
3. Ensure Your Healthcare Provider Understands What's Required
To be on the safe side, providing them with a sample letter is a great idea. Alternatively, you could use the list of required components above as a reference point. Your ESA letter must include everything when it arrives. Otherwise, it might not be legitimate, which could exempt you from certain benefits.
4. Wait for Your Letter to Arrive and Enjoy the Benefits!
Once your appointment concludes, you only need to head home and wait for your letter to arrive. Your letter will usually arrive either via post or email if the provider sends a digital copy. Sometimes, you may request both a digital and a physical copy.
When it arrives, check it against the list of necessary criteria. If it all looks okay, you're good to go!
If you’ve waited longer than two weeks and haven't heard anything from your healthcare provider, contacting them and chasing it up may be worthwhile.
Once you get your letter, you’re certified to use the benefits of owning an ESA. Enjoy going out in public spaces with your companion without fear of backlash.
Acquiring an ESA letter may feel intimidating at first. Appointments with healthcare professionals can often feel overwhelming, especially if you aren't used to discussing your difficulties with mental health. However, the benefits are worth it, and we strongly recommend getting an ESA letter of your own. It provides the validation you and your support animal deserve, so talk to your chosen healthcare provider about it!
If you’re looking for a mental health provider to get your ESA letter in Tennessee, contact ESA Registration of America. With a nationwide network of medical providers, we can set you up with a telehealth appointment or direct you to the nearest LMHP to start the process of qualifying for an ESA.
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