In Depth

Sick pet is grounds for time off, Italian court rules

Animal rights group says decision is ‘step forward’ for push to recognise animals as family members

Looking after a sick pet constitutes “serious personal grounds” for time off work, an Italian court has ruled.

A female complainant petitioned the court after her employer - Rome’s La Sapienza university - refused to grant her paid leave to take her dog to the vet.

Public sector employees in Italy are entitled to paid days off for serious personal or family-related reasons, similar to the way compassionate leave works in the UK.

The 53-year-old, who works in the university library, has not been identified, but the dog in question is a 12-year-old English setter Cucciola, Corriere della Sera reports.

In February, the dog had to have a tumour removed, and in May she needed treatment for laryngeal paralysis, a disease affecting the throat which restricts the animal’s ability to eat, bark and breathe.

On both occasions, Cucciola’s owner, who lives alone, argued that she had no-one else who could take Cucciola to the vet and take care of her during her recovery, and that she was thus entitled to back pay for the two days she had taken off work.

The Italian Anti-Vivisection League (LAV), which took on the woman’s case, argued that providing a pet with necessary medical care is a legal requirement and should be recognised as compelling personal grounds for absence.

Under Italian law, “people who abandon an animal to ‘grave suffering’ can be jailed for a year and fined up to €10,000 (£9,000),” says the BBC.

The court accepted the argument and ruled that La Sapienza must give the employee back pay for the two days she was absent from work.

“I’m very pleased,” the woman told Corriere della Sera after the ruling. “After my battle other people will be able to take care of their pets without using up their holiday.”

LAV president Gianluca Felicetti  said the decision set an important precedent for other pet owners, as well as being a “significant step forward” in recognising domestic animals as members of their owner’s family, La Stampa reports.

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