Woman with ill dog wins sick pay fight
Italian court rules in favour of woman who took time off to care for her pet
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.