West Ham United centre-back Kurt Zouma could reportedly face up to four years in prison in his native France after he was filmed kicking and slapping his pet cat.
The 27-year-old issued an apology on Sunday afternoon and then controversially started in Tuesday night’s victory against Watford, but the Frenchman has since been fined £250,000 and has had his cats taken away by the RSPCA, who are conducting an investigation.
The Daily Mirror reports that a legal complaint has been filed against Zouma in Paris, which led to lawyers working for La Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis, the largest animal rights group in France, contacting prosecutors.
A spokesman for the organisation said: “We condemn this heinous act, have asked that the player be suspended from the France team, and filed a legal complaint against him.”
The report adds that a French citizen can be prosecuted if they commit criminal acts abroad, according to article 113-6 of the French Penal Code.
Following the introduction of stronger animal protection laws in France in 2021, the ‘mistreatment of animals’ is now punishable by up to four years in prison along with a fine equivalent to £50,000.
In any criminal prosecution, aggravating factors include acts of violence being committed in front of other people, or if the animal belongs to the attacker.
Another source close to the case adds: “In the case of Kurt Zouma, the video appears to show aggravating facts, so he could be in very serious trouble.”
Senior French politicians have also condemned Zouma’s actions and, like La Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis, they have called for him to be suspended from the French national team.