Kurt Zouma: West Ham United player given community service for kicking and slapping cat
West Ham United player Kurt Zouma had been forced to apologise over the incident which was filmed and shared by his brother Yoan
Premier League footballer Kurt Zouma has been ordered to carry out 180 hours’ community service and banned from keeping cats for five years after kicking and slapping his pet in an incident which was filmed and posted on Snapchat.
The West Ham United defender had previously pleaded guilty to two counts under the Animal Welfare Act when he appeared at Thames Magistrates’ Court.
Zouma, 27, was forced to apologise after harrowing footage was filmed and shared by his younger brother Yoan, 24, who admitted one offence during the hearing.
Hammers defender Zouma arrived at court in chaotic fashion, accompanied by several security guards who emerged from a vehicle holding umbrellas to form a protective shield around the defendant.
What did Kurt Zouma do?
The court was told about disturbing footage of the incident which was posted on Snapchat by his brother on 6 February.
It was later seen by a woman who had been messaging Yoan, who raised the alarm.
Zouma could be seen volleying the Bengal cat across his kitchen, before throwing a pair of shoes at it and slapping its head.
Prosecutor Hazel Stevens told the court Kurt Zouma could be heard saying: “I swear I’ll kill it, I swear I’ll kill it.”
He admitted two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal on 6 February.
Yoan admitted one count of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring his older brother to commit an offence.
Prosecutor Ms Stevens said the 40-second clip appeared to be carried out after the cats were deemed responsible for damaging a chair.
She said: “Kurt Zouma is determined to chastise or carry out some sort of retribution for the damage caused.”
She said the young woman who first saw the footage was so appalled that she cancelled a date with Yoan, saying: “I don’t think hitting a cat like that is OK – don’t bother coming today.”
Ms Stevens added: “Since this footage was put in public domain there has been a spate of people hitting cats and posting it on various social media sites.
“Their behaviour falls short of what is expected of a high-profile image.”
The court heard Yoan had 80 followers on Snapchat, and only five accounts viewed it before it was deleted a few minutes after being posted.
What happened during the sentencing hearing?
Kurt Zouma was handed 180 hours’ community service and told to pay court costs of nearly £9,000.
He was also banned from keeping or caring for cats for five years.
Yoan was ordered to carry out 140 hours’ community service.
The hearing lasted 15 minutes.
Zouma showed no emotion as he was handed the sentence at Thames Magistrates’ Court in east London on Wednesday.
He drew international condemnation after footage emerged of him volleying the pet across his kitchen, before throwing a pair of shoes at it and slapping its head, saying: “I swear I’ll kill it.”
District judge Susan Holdham described the actions as “disgraceful and reprehensible”.
Ms Holdham said: “The cat looked up to you to care for its needs.
“On that date in February you did not provide for its needs but you caused unnecessary suffering for your own amusement.”
The judge added: “You must be aware that others look up to you and many young people aspire to emulate you.”
What happened to Zouma’s cats?
The court heard the Premier League defender has since agreed for his two Bengal male cats to be rehomed.
It was not possible to state whether it was the same cat in each section of footage, but experts said whichever animal had been struck would have likely suffered soft tissue damage to the head, as well as mental and physical suffering.
Defending the West Ham player, Trevor Burke QC said his client had been fined £250,000 by his club and lost a “substantial” sponsorship deal with Adidas.
He had also not been picked for the French national team, he said.
Mr Burke said: “A Google search will always reveal the guilty plea and the video.”
What has the RSPCA said?
In a statement, RSPCA chief inspectorate officer Dermot Murphy said: “It’s never acceptable to treat an animal in this way and we were shocked when the video was first brought to our attention.
“What makes this case even more sad is the way the video was filmed and shared, making light of such cruelty.
“We hope this case will serve as a reminder that all animals deserve to be treated with kindness, compassion and respect, and that we will not tolerate cruelty by anybody.”
The court heard Hammers defender Zouma had been subject to racist abuse and threats, lost a “substantial” sponsorship deal with Adidas, was fined £250,000 and had no longer been picked for the France national team since the furore over the footage emerged.
But his legal team’s claims in court that seven people are to be prosecuted for abusing Zouma were later dismissed by police.
What has West Ham said?
In a statement, a West Ham club spokesman said: “West Ham United wishes to make clear that we condemn in the strongest terms any form of animal abuse or cruelty. This type of behaviour is unacceptable and is not in line with the values of the football club.
“Within 48 hours of the footage emerging, we fined Kurt the maximum available to the club.
“Every single penny of this money is now with a number of deserving charities, all dedicated to animal welfare.
“Kurt admitted at the earliest opportunity that what he did was wrong. He has apologised without reservation.
“We hope that now the court has reached its decision, everyone will allow Kurt the chance to learn from his mistake and move on.”