DISGRACED footballer Kurt Zouma faces up to four years in prison in his native France for kicking and slapping his cat in Britain.
Animal activists have filed a legal complaint against the 27-year-old West Ham and France international in Paris, where there is widespread shock at a video showing him attacking his pet at his home in Essex.
Lawyers working for the 30 Million Friends Foundation (La Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis), the largest animal rights group in France, have contacted prosecutors.
“We condemn this heinous act, have asked that the player be suspended from the France team, and filed a legal complaint against him,” a spokesman said.
According to article 113-6 of the French Penal Code, a French citizen can be prosecuted for criminal acts carried out abroad.
Tough new animal protection laws were introduced in France in 2021, meaning that the “mistreatment of animals” is now punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine equivalent to £50,000.
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.
“In the case of Kurt Zouma, the video appears to show aggravating facts, so he could be in very serious trouble,” said another source close to the case.
The star has apologised in a statement for the attack on his Bengal cat, saying he was “deeply sorry”, and insisting that his cats are “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.”
But 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’.
And Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Rally party and a presidential candidate, said: ‘It’s shameful. I still think that those who are capable of cruelty to animals are also capable of cruelty towards men. Violence is never trivial.’
Back in Britain, West Ham manager David Moyes has been slammed for picking cat-kicker Zouma for a Premiership match against Watford on Tuesday – with a pet charity saying it ‘normalised his abhorrent behaviour’.
The player was booed every time he touched the ball in the incendiary London Stadium clash.
Becky Thwaites, Head of Public Affairs at 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 70,000 times.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism