Wo­man with ill dog wins sick pay fight

Ital­ian court rules in favour of wo­man who took time off to care for her pet

The Scotsman - - Front Page - By MAR­TYN MCLAUGHLIN

An Ital­ian wo­man has won a le­gal bat­tle to take paid leave to care for her sick dog.

In what is be­ing hailed as a land­mark case, the 53-year-old aca­demic has se­cured the right to claim sick pay for time she took off work in or­der to look af­ter her English set­ter.

An Ital­ian wo­man has won a le­gal bat­tle to take paid leave to care for her poorly pet.

In what be­ing hailed as a land­mark case in a coun­try renowned for its love of an­i­mals, the aca­demic has se­cured the right to claim sick pay for time she took off work in or­der to look af­ter her dog.

The 53-year-old wo­man, who works at Rome’s La Sapienza Univer­sity, had taken two days off to care for Cuc­ci­ola, her English set­ter, af­ter she be­came un­well.

She adopted the dog af­ter find­ing her aban­doned in a park in the Ital­ian cap­i­tal, and now con­sid­ers her part of her fam­ily.

How­ever, the 12-year-old an­i­mal fell ill ear­lier this year, and had to have a tu­mour re­moved from her breast in Fe­bru­ary. Three months later, she un­der­went treat­ment for la­ryn­geal paral­y­sis, a dis­ease af­fect­ing the throat which re­stricts an an­i­mal’s abil­ity to eat , bark, and breathe.

The wo­man asked the univer­sity to grant her paid leave in or­der to take Cuc­ci­ola to the vet, but her re­quest was re­jected, prompt­ing the un­usual le­gal ac­tion. Now, a judge has ac­cepted the wo­man’s ar­gu­ment that the univer­sity should put the ab­sence down to “se­ri­ous or fam­ily per­sonal rea­sons”.

The li­brar­ian, who has not been named, brought the case against her em­ploy­ers with the help of lawyers from Italy’s Anti-vivi­sec­tion League (LAV), the coun­try’s lead­ing an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy group.

They pointed to a pro­vi­sion in Ital­ian law which says peo­ple who aban­don an an­i­mal to “grave suf­fer­ing” can be jailed for a year and fined up to £9,000.

Speak­ing af­ter­wards to the Ital­ian news­pa­per Cor­riere della Sera, Cuc­ci­ola’s owner said: “I’m very pleased. Af­ter my bat­tle other peo­ple will be able to take care of their pets with­out us­ing up their hol­i­day.” She added that Cuc­ci­ola is re­cov­er­ing well.

Gian­luca Felicette, pres­i­dent of the LAV, said any­one who ob­tains a vet’s cer­tifi­cate should en­joy the same ben­e­fit, cit­ing Cuc­ci­ola’s case as a defin­ing mo­ment.

He said: “It is a sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward that recog­nised that an­i­mals that are not kept for fi­nan­cial gain or their work­ing abil­ity are ef­fec­tively mem­bers of the fam­ily. Now, those in the same sit­u­a­tion will be able to cite this im­por­tant prece­dent.”

Pete Wed­der­burn, the vet­eri­nary sur­geon and jour­nal­ist, wel­comed the rul­ing. He said: “Pets are part of the fam­ily, so surely you de­serve time off work if they fall ill and need your care.”

Kate Palmer, head of ad­vi­sory at Penin­sula, an em­ploy­ment law con­sul­tancy, said that in the UK, pets are not in­cluded within the statu­tory def­i­ni­tion that en­ti­tles em­ploy­ees to pair or un­paid lave.

But she stressed that many firms would adopt a rea­son­able ap­proach in the event of emer­gen­cies, ex­plain­ing: “Although there isn’t a le­gal en­ti­tle­ment to time off, most em­ploy­ers will be un­der­stand­ing and com­pas­sion­ate in th­ese cir­cum­stances.”

The French nov­el­ist, Co­lette, once ob­served that our per­fect com­pan­ions never have fewer than four feet. Any­one who has a spe­cial bond with their pet would no doubt agree. They are friends who of­fer com­fort while re­mind­ing us of our re­spon­si­bil­ity to nur­ture and care.

The lat­ter obli­ga­tion is not one that should be taken lightly, es­pe­cially when an­i­mals take ill. The thought of tak­ing time off work to care for them would strike many as the nat­u­ral course of ac­tion.

That, cer­tainly, was the view of the Ital­ian aca­demic who took two days off her job to tend to Cuc­ci­ola, her English set­ter, af­ter she had taken un­well. The wo­man thought it rea­son­able her leave be paid; her em­ployer thought oth­er­wise. Now, a court has found in her favour.

It is pleas­ing news for Cuc­ci­ola and her owner, but were such a rul­ing were to set a prece­dent, where would it end? No-one wishes to see a pet un­der the weather, but if own­ers were guar­an­teed paid leave, pro­duc­tiv­ity lev­els would plum­met. Work­ers are well looked af­ter through statu­tory sick pay, but tak­ing time off for our beloved four­legged friends is a step too far.

0 Cuc­ci­ola and her owner, who has not been named.

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