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Tennessee’s legislative session ended on April 25, 2024, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) is pleased to report multiple legislative successes that benefit dogs and dog owners. AKC thanks members of AKC-affiliated clubs, sportsmen, and every individual who contacted their state lawmakers about bills that affect our dogs. Special thanks go to the Nashville Kennel Club and club president Jon Cole for leadership in addressing dog-related legislation in Tennessee.

The AKC Government Relations team (AKC GR) tracked 57 Tennessee state bills relevant to dogs and dog owners during the 2023-2024 session. Here is a recap of notable bills from the second year:

Bills Enacted

On May 9, 2024, Governor Lee signed the “Beyond Ordinary Learning Opportunities (BOLO) Act” (HB 1908/SB 1967) into law. Named after Bolo, a Lagotto Romagnolo therapy dog, this law recognizes the value of a “calm, obedient canine that is trained to provide support, comfort, and companionship to people in educational, health, and therapeutic settings.” It requires the Tennessee Department of Education to establish a one-year pilot program to place a therapy dog in five public schools during the 2024-2025 school year. AKC thanks Representative Gino Bulso and Senator Joey Hensley for sponsoring this legislation. SB 1867 was enacted as Public Chapter 954 and took effect immediately. Read more.

HB 2691/SB 2478 help protect the rights of animal owners by prohibiting a state or local department or agency from entering private property without probable cause to believe that a criminal offense has occurred or is occurring, the consent of the property owner, a warrant, or a recognized warrant exception, and requires a member of a society incorporated for the prevention of cruelty to animals to notify the appropriate local law enforcement agency of the member’s intent to make an arrest or interfere to prevent an act of cruelty and the circumstances justifying the action before doing so. AKC GR submitted letters of support for this legislation and thanks Senator Joey Hensley and Representative Clay Doggett for sponsoring the bills. SB 2478 was enacted on April 17, 2024, as Public Chapter 704 and takes effect July 1, 2024.

HB 2266/SB 2030 positively amend state laws governing rental housing to establish that “reliable documentation” regarding need for a support animal does not include documentation provided through a website, the primary function of which is to provide a certificate, registration, license, or similar document for a service animal or support animal for a fee. AKC strongly condemns characterizing dogs as service animals when they are not. HB 2266 was enacted on April 22 as Public Chapter 754 and takes effect July 1, 2024. Read more.

HB 1635/SB 1595, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, prohibit emotional support animals that are not trained or being trained as service animals from being brought into indoor areas of food service establishments. Prior to supporting the bills, AKC GR contacted state legislative staff and inquired if this legislation could be interpreted to disallow the operation of concession stands inside facilities while hosting animal events. Staff for bill sponsors researched the question and indicated that food providers that operate in conjunction with animal events would not be negatively affected. HB 1635 was enacted as Public Chapter 566 on March 15, 2024, and took effect immediately. Read more.

HB 2079/SB1957 establish a process for a licensed veterinarian to report suspected animal cruelty and to testify in a judicial or administrative proceeding concerning the care of the animal without being subject to criminal or civil liability. The bills specify that the veterinarian will be acting in a professional capacity and in a current veterinarian-client-patient relationship, and have reasonable cause to believe that an animal has been subjected to animal cruelty in violation of Tennessee state laws § 39-14-202, § 39-14-214, or § 39-14-217. AKC GR monitored this legislation throughout the 2024 legislative session and encouraged interested dog owners to express their support. SB 1957 was enacted as Public Chapter 584 on March 15, 2024, and took effect immediately. Read more.

Bills Defeated

HB 2938/SB 2513 sought to require the licensure of “commercial” dog breeders by the Department of Commerce and Insurance. Licensure would have been based on the number of dogs owned rather than on commercial activity or sales. House Bill 2938 was taken off notice in committee. SB 2513 did not advance prior to end of session. Read more.

HB 1320/SB 835 sought to criminalize restraining a dog with a chain, cord, tether, cable, or similar device under certain weather forecasts and during evacuation orders. While AKC advocates that dogs should never be tethered in a manner that could cause harm to them, these bills were problematic in that they did not consider that forecasted conditions might not occur where a dog is kept or that tethers can be used to safely restrain a dog prior to or during an evacuation. The bills did not advance in committees prior to end of session. Read more.

Get Prepared for Fall Elections and the 2025-2026 Tennessee Session 

2024 is an election year, and it is important that candidates who support responsible dog owners are elected. Encourage fellow dog owners to register to vote. Get to know candidates for office, learn about their positions on animal issues, and support dog-friendly candidates for seats in the Tennessee state legislature.

As often happens, problematic bills could be redrafted and refiled for the 2025-2026 session. Take time now to prepare for advocacy. Meet with your state senator and representative in your district and let them know that you, your AKC club, and AKC GR are reliable and knowledgeable resources on dog issues.

Stay Informed

By working together, we can protect our rights to own, exhibit, breed, and enjoy the dogs we love by offering support for good legislation and opposition to problematic bills. View AKC’s Legislative Action Center at where you can find information on key issues affecting dogs and access downloadable fact sheets and advocacy resources.

For information and assistance, email