West Ham defender Kurt Zouma has pleaded guilty to kicking and slapping his pet cat.
Zouma, who faced a public backlash and sanctions from his club after a February 7 video posted on social media showed him abusing the cat, admitted two offences under the Animal Welfare Act at Thames Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) announced on March 16 that following an investigation, it had decided to move forward with prosecuting Zouma, 27, and his brother Yoann, 24.
Yoan Zouma, who plays for Dagenham and Redbridge in the National League, filmed the incident and admitted one offence. Sentencing has been adjourned to June 1.
Prosecutor Hazel Stevens told the court that Kurt Zouma could be heard saying: “I swear I’ll kill it, I swear I’ll kill it.”
West Ham fined Zouma two weeks’ wages which were donated to an animal charity, and sponsors adidas and Vitality scrapped deals with the player and club.
While Kurt Zouma was never suspended by West Ham, Yoan Zouma was suspended for over a month by Dagenham & Redbridge until the RSPCA had concluded its investigation. The club reserved “the right to take further action if deemed necessary after conclusion of court proceedings.”
Following a full and thorough investigation into distressing footage, we have started the process of bringing a prosecution against Kurt Zouma and Yoan Zouma. We continue to care for the two cats. Read more about our investigations process: https://t.co/kgCAO827Sx pic.twitter.com/WyWuKXti8d
— RSPCA (England & Wales) (@RSPCA_official) March 16, 2022
West Ham manager David Moyes continued to play Zouma despite the outrage surrounding the graphic nature of the video (below) in which Zouma drop-kicked his pet, slapped it and threw an object at it as laughter was heard in the background.
(Note: The footage below shows animal abuse and will be disturbing to some.)
A video obtained by The Sun allegedly shows footballer Kurt Zouma kicking and hitting his cat.
It’s absolutely disgusting and disturbing footage. I hope he is prosecuted for animal cruelty. pic.twitter.com/3K7xMeHh5j
— Emily Hewertson 🇬🇧 (@emilyhewertson) February 7, 2022
Could Zouma face jail time?
The Metropolitan Police decided not to pursue the case in February, but Essex Police were working with the RSPCA on its investigation after the case was referred to them by their Surrey counterparts.
The RSPCA has the ability under common law to prosecute individuals who are suspected of animal abuse or neglect. If the RSPCA investigation reveals a criminal act, it could result in the relevant authorities taking action.
According to a “how our investigations work” section on the RSPCA’s site, it indicates that “the maximum sentence for anyone convicted of an animal welfare offence is five years in prison.”
“We don’t sentence people – that’s the role of the court,” the RSPCA said, “And penalties are decided by the magistrates or judge and will depend on the circumstances.”
New guidelines issued by the Sentencing Council earlier in May instructed judges to issue heavier sentences if people found guilty of animal cruelty post their crimes online. Such social media posting was identified as “aggravated” behaviour under the Animal Welfare Act. A report by The Telegraph referred to this as a “new Kurt Zouma rule”.
Nearly 350,000 people said they wanted to see the RSPCA move forward with prosecution of Zouma via an online petition making clear their position on the topic.
The RSPCA has the purview to prosecute individuals and it moved forward with that decision in the Zouma case.
“The RSPCA will consider the prosecution of individuals who have committed offenses where animals have been neglected or abused or where the welfare of animals has been, or is likely to be, compromised,” reads the RSPCA’s prosecution policy. “Alternatives to prosecution will also be considered.”
Will Zouma be suspended after cat video?
West Ham didn’t suspend Zouma at the time and it’s unlikely they will now though that could change depending on the outcome of the court case. The club issued the following statement, as published by the Press Association, after the RSPCA announced the decision to prosecute the player on March 16:
“Kurt continues to co-operate fully, supported by the club. It is our understanding that Kurt’s cats have been checked by a vet, are in good health and have suffered no physical injuries. For legal reasons, neither Kurt or the club will be making any further comment at this time.”
The West Ham statement announcing his fine in February 2022 did not include mention of a suspension, but it did leave open the opportunity for future discipline depending on the result of the RSPCA investigation.
“Separate to the RSPCA’s investigation and pending further sanction once the outcome of that process is determined, West Ham United can confirm that Kurt Zouma has been fined the maximum amount possible following his actions in the video that circulated.”
Even in the absence of a club suspension, Moyes’s decision to start Zouma in the first game the day after the video surfaced in February was so controversial, the Scottish manager needed to come out and defend it, which largely served to fuel further outrage.
MORE: David Moyes, West Ham ripped for starting Zouma
“It’s something we’re all disappointed with and something we can’t understand,” Moyes said in February after Zouma started the first game for which he was available. “He’ll learn from it [but] today I had to pick a football team that gave me the best chance of winning the game as manager of West Ham.
“I know how people feel, but I’m also a football manager here. My feeling was that Kurt has apologized and I understand a lot of people will not just be accepting of an apology. But to me he came out and [apologized] honestly and I had to do my job.”
Sponsors drop Zouma & West Ham
The club’s handling of the situation was cited by Vitality in suspending its sponsorship of the club on Feb. 9:
Vitality have suspended their sponsorship of West Ham United after the club’s response to the incident. pic.twitter.com/NBewu1GcpP
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) February 9, 2022
“We are hugely disappointed by the judgement subsequently shown by the club in response to this incident,” Vitality said in a statement. “As such, we are suspending our sponsorship of West Ham United with immediate effect.
“We will now be further engaging with the club to understand what actions they will be taking to address the situation.”
Hours after Vitality’s announcement, adidas moved forward with dropping Kurt Zouma as one of its athletes.
Adidas statement: “We have concluded our investigation and can confirm Kurt Zouma is no longer an adidas contracted athlete.”
— Alistair Magowan (@alistairmagowan) February 9, 2022
Did Kurt Zouma lose his cats?
The RSPCA assumed custody of Zouma’s two cats on February 9 and a statement on March 16 indicated that they still reside with the organisation.
West Ham’s statement in February pointed out that it was a case of Zouma “delivering his family’s two cats to the RSPCA for assessment.”
Update on viral footage of cats
We’d like to reassure people that we’re investigating and the cats are safe and in our care. We have been dealing with this since before the clip went viral online and we need to follow the proper legal process and not discuss due to UK GDPR laws. pic.twitter.com/LticInSmpn
— RSPCA (England & Wales) (@RSPCA_official) February 9, 2022
According to language on the RSPCA’s site, if the organisation secures a conviction after the investigation and prosecution of a case, those convicted can be “banned from keeping animals” if the court decides it’s appropriate.
“When a conviction is secured, the court is then able to permanently confiscate animals,” reads the language on the site. “If signed over to our care we can then find them loving homes.”
How much was Zouma fined for kicking, hitting his cat?
The West Ham defender was docked two weeks’ wages by the club, with Trevor Burke QC confirming in court that this amounted to £250,000.
According to West Ham’s February 9 statement, Zouma did not challenge the fine and the funds were donated to animal welfare charities.
Zouma’s apology for cat video
Zouma issued a statement the day after the video surfaced: “I want to apologise for my actions. There are no excuses for my behaviour, which I sincerely regret.
“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 behaviour was an isolated incident that will not happen again.”
Dagenham & Redbridge has condemned “the actions of Yoan Zouma in filming his brother, and his reactions to the events shown.”
Daggers centre back, Yoan Zouma, has apologised and says it was “an isolated incident and not something that I am proud of.”https://t.co/K6G59cE99I
— Ollie Bayliss (@Ollie_Bayliss) February 8, 2022
In his own statement, Yoan Zouma said: “I deeply regret my involvement in the video that has been widely circulated and unreservedly apologise, not only for my actions, but for the upset and distress this will have caused to so many people.
“I am now taking time to reflect on what I have done but wish to assure everyone that this was an isolated incident and not something that I am proud of.”