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General Assembly expands protections for Tennesseans with service animals

The General Assembly has passed legislation to increase protections and accountability for individuals with service animals in Tennessee.  

House Bill 165 expands the penalty for misrepresentation of a service animal to include 100 hours of community service for an organization that assists individuals with disabilities. It also allows for anyone who utilizes or is training a guide dog to be held liable if the animal causes any damages.

“This bill is simply to codify some of the federal (American with Disability Act) guidelines and add some accountability for folks that are abusing this,” said bill sponsor State Rep. Ed Butler, R-Rickman. “An emotional support animal… is not considered a service animal, and therefore a business owner has the ability to ask them to leave.”

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According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, only dogs are recognized as service animals. They must be trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability and are generally permitted to accompany individuals in all areas where members of the public are allowed. Additionally, there are separate provisions for miniature horses that have been trained as service animals. The Senate version was approved in February. The legislation now heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

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