Tennessee bans emotional-support animals from restaurant dining rooms

Service animals, security dogs and aquarium fish are still allowed, and some caged beasts can be displayed in ancillary areas.
Service animals are still permitted. | Photo: Shutterstock

Dogs and other pets designated as emotional support animals for their masters are no longer permitted in Tennessee restaurants.

A bill recently signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee greatly limits the instances where any animal except aquarium fish and crustaceans are allowed inside a foodservice establishment. Other critters can enter only if they are patrol dogs accompanying law-enforcement or security personnel, or service animals that have been specially trained to compensate for a guest’s disability.

“An animal whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support is not a service animal” and hence is banned, the law specifies.

Restaurants can also keep animals in cages on the premises in some instances, provided the cages aren’t located in dining rooms. That provision is presumably intended to permit live birds or lizards to be displayed.

The animal ban applies only to a restaurant’s interior, suggesting pets can still accompany their masters in outdoor areas.

Restaurateurs have long complained about efforts by guests to bring all sorts of pets inside with them by arguing that the animals provide emotional support and comfort. Reports have surfaced of patrons attempting to apply that support-animal label to everything from snakes to miniature horses.

The law distinguishes support animals from guide dogs for the blind and other service animals by noting that the latter are specially trained to provide a function.

It does not state how a foodservice establishment should verify that an accompanying pet has been trained as a service animal.

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