WEST Ham ace Kurt Zouma could be prosecuted for animal cruelty as more than 22,000 people have signed a petition calling for justice.
The defender was filmed kicking one of his two cats like a football and slapping it out of a child’s hands in disturbing footage filmed at his multimillion-pound mansion.
He’s since issued a groveling apology after the film, shared by his brother Yoan on Snapchat, was exclusively featured by The Sun.
But the Premier League ace could still face a criminal prosecution if the RSPCA deems the clip contains illegal behavior and produces files to the police.
And tonight, Essex Police confirmed they were investigating the video as a matter of urgency.
Now more than 22,000 Brits have signed a petition calling for the Met to launch a probe.
The Change.org petition, started by Matthew Dixon, says: “Professional football player Kurt Zouma was filmed horrendously abusing a defenseless animal.
“He should be prosecuted for his actions.”
It eats like this:
Mr Dixon wrote: “Thank you to everyone who has signed the petition.
“This ‘man’ cannot be allowed to get away with abusing this poor cat in this way.”
And despite the public outcry – Zouma started for West Ham this evening in their match against Watford.
David Moyes named the 27-year-old in his team to face the Hornets despite uproar from fans after the vile clips were made public.
West Ham says the matter will be dealt with internally.
It is thought the Hammers star man could be at least fined wages for the shamed clips, which fans have complained puts their season in jeopardy.
The club said: “West Ham United unreservedly condemns the actions of our player, Kurt Zouma, in the video that has circulated.
“We have spoken to Kurt and will be dealing with the matter internally, but we would like to make it clear that we in no way condone cruelty towards animals.”
Zouma, 27, last night apologized after the emergence of the sick clips.
The video was filmed at his £2million house on Sunday afternoon – a day after he appeared for West Ham in the FA Cup.
“I want to apologize for my actions. There are no excuses for my behaviour, which I sincerely regret,” he said.
“I also want to say how deeply sorry I am to anyone who was upset by the video. I would like to assure everyone that our two cats are perfectly fine and healthy.
“They are loved and cherished by our entire family, and this behavior was an isolated incident that will not happen again.”
Thousands of people have contacted the RSPCA urging the charity to proceed.
The issue has also been discussed on breakfast television.
Susanna Reid told Good Morning Britain viewers: “There is something sickening about the defensive abuse of a helpless animal.
“Why would you do that? What on earth possesses you to mistreat an animal like that? And then thinking it’s a good laugh.”
Her co-star Richard Madeley replied: “Power and control.
“I think there needs to be a prosecution.”
In the UK, the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty is five years after a new bill was passed last year.
Before then, the maximum jail time for animal cruelty was just six months.
But prison sentences are for the most heinous animal cruelty crimes – including “dog fighting, abuse of puppies and kittens, illegally cropping a dog’s ears and gross neglect of farm animals.”
People found guilty can also face an unlimited fine.
Meanwhile, animal charity Blue Cross has also backed calls for a criminal investigation.
Chief executive officer Chris Burghes said: “The video is appalling and very distressing to watch.
“This kind of cruelty is unacceptable towards any living being, and for a child to also witness this is additionally disturbing.
“There may have been statements afterwards that the two cats are well-loved family pets, but the trauma this individual cat has experienced is very likely to affect its wellbeing for the future.
“The UK Government recently raised the sentencing for animal cruelty to a maximum of a five-year jail term, and we fully support prosecution for cases like this.”
Five years in jail under tough new laws
ANIMAL abusers now face tougher prison sentences under a new bill passed in Parliament last year.
The worst offenders can be caged for five years instead of just six months under the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill.
Dog fight organisers, farmers who neglect horses and thugs who abuse puppies or kittens can all be hit by the long jail term.
The new legislation — championed by PM Boris Johnson and his animal-loving wife Carrie — came after a four-year campaign by Battersea Cats & Dogs Home in London.
It makes CCTV mandatory in every slaughterhouse in England and bans the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter.
Standards in zoos must be improved and household pets even have their feelings protected.
The law says animals with a backbone have a right to happiness as well as avoiding suffering.
The Battersea home launched the crusade after discovering fly-tippers were given harsher sentences than animal abusers.
When the bill came into effect last June, comedian Ricky Gervais, 60 — a dedicated animal rights campaigner — said: “Justice will finally be served to anyone who perpetuates animal cruelty and a proper punishment brought in.
“It’s one I hope will serve as a deterrent to anyone who’d contemplate harming an innocent creature.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism