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West Ham footballer Kurt Zouma could face jail time for kicking and slapping his cat

The star could face up to five years in prison in the UK and four in France under animal cruelty charges.

The  West Ham footballer Kurt Zouma could face jail time in France and the UK for a video that emerged of him kicking and slapping his cat

A legal complaint has been filed against the 27-year-old West Ham and France player in Paris, where there is widespread shock at a video showing him attacking his pet at his Essex home.

It led to lawyers working for the 30 Million Friends Foundation (La Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis), the largest animal rights group in France, contacting prosecutors

A spokesman for the Foundation said: “We condemn this heinous act, have asked that the player be suspended from the France team, and filed a legal complaint against him.” According to article 113-6 of the French Penal Code, a French citizen can be prosecuted for criminal acts carried out abroad.

Tougher prison sentences for animal cruelty came into force in June 2021 in the UK with the maximum prison sentence raised from six months to five years. In France new laws mean the crime is now punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine equivalent to £50,000. Essex Police confirmed that they were liaising with the RSPCA as part of “urgent enquiries”.

Aggravating factors in any criminal prosecution include acts of violence being committed in front of other people, or if the animal belongs to the attacker. The star has apologised in a statement for the attack on his Bengal cat, saying he was “deeply sorry”, and insisting that his cats were “loved and cherished”.

An Essex Police spokesman said: “We are aware of a video circulating on social media relating to an incident involving a cat which members of our communities may find distressing.

“We have recently been made aware that this incident may have taken place in Essex and we are liaising with the RSPCA and urgent enquiries are ongoing.”

Senior French politicians have also condemned Zouma, who is from the eastern city of Lyon, and called for him to be kicked out of France’s national team.

Muriel Fusi, spokesperson for the French Animal party, said: “Many people on social networks are outraged by the video. Many people claim that this football player can no longer wear the colours of France.”

The West Ham manager, David Moyes, has been criticised for picking Zouma for a Premiership match against Watford on Tuesday, with one pet charity saying it “normalised his abhorrent behaviour”.

The player was booed every time he touched the ball in the match.

Becky Thwaites, head of public affairs at the national pet charity Blue Cross, said: “We were very disappointed to see West Ham make the decision to play Kurt Zouma last night.

“In our view it normalises his abhorrent behaviour and delivers the message it’s acceptable to treat a family pet that way.”

A petition calling for the RSPCA to take action against the French international launched yesterday has already been signed more than 100,000 times.

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