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Caring for a sick pet is a major challenge for many pet owners. But what happens when you are working and need to take care of the sick animal? What rights do employees have in such a situation? In this article, we take a look at the legal aspects and provide some tips on how to behave as a dog owner in this difficult situation. 

Legal Framework

According to German labor law, there is no entitlement to paid special leave if the pet falls ill. Paid special leave under § 616 of the German Civil Code applies only to personal reasons such as marriage, caring for children or parents, or the death of a close relative. Pets are usually excluded from this, as they are not equated with family members. 

Please note: the following text is only valid under German law! 

Lawyer on laptop with judge hammer
Image: Sora Shimazaki –

Exceptions in Emergencies

In acute emergencies, where the animal is acutely ill or injured and requires immediate veterinary treatment, the employee may be entitled to leave under certain circumstances. Animal welfare requires that medical care be ensured in such cases. However, this only applies for short periods. It is also possible that labor or collective agreements exclude or limit the exemption, so there is no entitlement to leave, and vacation must be taken or working time credits used. The same applies if the pet is sick, without it being an urgent emergency. 

Taking Leave for a Sick Pet

If the pet falls ill and no one is available to care for the animal in need of care, the employee should take a regular vacation day and hope that the employer shows understanding and grants leave spontaneously. 

What to Do if No Vacation is Left?

In cases where no vacation entitlement remains, the employee must hope for the goodwill of the (HR) boss. It is advisable to describe the personal emergency and apply for unpaid leave. Due to the strict animal welfare regulations in Germany, a compromise is usually sought that takes into account both the interests of the employer and the welfare of the animal. 

Self-Leave and Home Office

The employee should not take leave on their own initiative. If there is enough time, a temporary injunction can be applied for at the labor court to obtain the leave. If this is not possible in time, and the employee stays away from work without permission, this may lead to a warning, unless the employee is in an insoluble predicament where a sanction would not be justified. 

Home office is allowed when the pet is sick, but only with the consent of the employer, who must take into account the legitimate interests of the employee

Veterinary Visits and Make-Up Work

If the dog is injured during the morning walk and an urgent veterinary visit is necessary, the employee should immediately inform their supervisor. The employee is usually granted the time needed to take the sick animal to the vet, but there is no entitlement to payment for this time. 

If the animal needs to be monitored and cared for at home after treatment or surgery, it is possible to offer the employer to make up for the lost working time later. 

Cat at the vet gets an injection
Image: Gustavo Fring –


Caring for a sick pet can be a challenging situation for employees. It is important to know the legal framework and coordinate with the employer. Open and honest communication is crucial. Every case is individual, so it is advisable to find a solution that takes into account both the interests of the employer and the welfare of the animal. Ultimately, animal welfare should always be in the foreground, and a good balance between work and concern for the pet should be found. 

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