West Ham center-back Kurt Zouma is facing prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act after a video surfaced online of the footballer kicking his cat.
In February, 27-year-old Zouma made headlines after his brother Yoan posted a video of the incident on Snapchat. In the clip, Zouma chases one of his two cats around his house as he throws shoes at them.
He also drop-kicks the animal like a football, and later slaps the cat out of a child’s arms – it’s thought that the minor is one of Zouma’s three children.
The video quickly circled the internet, alarming animal-lovers and sports fans alike.
The athlete issued a public apology about the footage, saying he “sincerely regrets” his actions.
“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,” Zouma said. “And this behavior was an isolated incident that will not happen again.”
Days later, the RSPCA UK seized the two cats from Zouma’s property; the animals are still in the charity’s care.
Now, the animal protection group has kicked off prosecution proceedings against the soccer player, as well as his brother Yoan, who took the footage.
Yoan, 23, is a center-back for Dagenham and Redbridge football club.
“Following a full and thorough investigation, we have started the process of bringing a prosecution against Kurt Zouma and Yoan Zouma under the Animal Welfare Act,” an RSPCA spokesperson said in a statement.
“The two cats continue to be cared for by the RSPCA. We will be in a position to release more information once a court date is confirmed.”
West Ham said it is “aware of the RSPCA statement in relation to its investigation,” the BBC reports.
“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,” the club continued.
“For legal reasons, neither Kurt or the club will be making any further comment at this time.”
Following the incident, West Ham, which signed Zouma last summer for £29.8 million, withheld two weeks of the player’s wage.
The sum – which totaled £250,000 – was donated to animal welfare charities, the club said.
But less than a day later, West Ham manager David Moyes added Zouma to his starting team for the Premier League game with Watford.
The move was met with criticism; during the match, crowds reportedly booed Zouma each time he touched the ball.
The athlete’s sponsorships also took a hit. Adidas ended its deal with Zouma, and issued a statement about the “deeply upsetting video.”
The sports company wrote: “No animal should be subject to cruel and unwarranted abuse, and we are investigating the incident internally.”
Futher, Vitality, a sponsor of the club, ended its partnership with West Ham.
“We are hugely disappointed by the judgement subsequently shown by the club in response to this incident,” Vitality said at the time.
Yoan’s football club did not let him on the field for four weeks after the matter. However, in a new statement, Dagenham and Redbridge said the suspension period had ended.
“The club feels that any further suspension from the team would be detrimental to both the club and Yoan,” Dagenham and Redbridge said.
“A decision has been made therefore for Yoan to be available to play. The club reserves the right to take further action if deemed necessary after conclusion of the court proceedings.”