We love our pets, and for many of us, our furry friends are like extensions of our family. So, are employees entitled to protected leave in order to take care of a sick family pet? In a word, no. How about a “support animal”? Still, no.
In fact, the only place in California that has a requirement to allow employees to use paid sick leave to care for an animal is Emeryville, and even there, the paid sick leave protection only applies to “service animals” (specified as guide, signal, or service dogs). A trained service animal is also very different from a “support animal.” A service animal is defined under the ADA as a “dog” that is individually “trained” to “do work or perform tasks” for people with disabilities. (Although the definition is limited to dogs, the ADA does also allow individuals with disabilities to use miniature horses if they have been specifically trained to do work or perform tasks for individuals with disabilities.) California’s definition of service animals is essentially the same. An emotional “support animal” or comfort animal is very different: first it can be any type of animal, not just a dog; and second while they may be soothing to someone with a medical condition, or recognized disability, support animals are not specially trained to perform a specific task or do work for their owner – as the name implies, their primary function is to provide comfort.
So, when it comes to using protected paid sick leave for a sick or injured animal, the rules in California are pretty clear, employers are not required to provide employees with protected paid sick leave to care for their animals outside of the requirement to do so in Emeryville (and then, only for legitimately trained service animals).
(Note – this article does not address employee requests to bring their animals to work. That’s a topic for another day…)