West Ham defender Kurt Zouma pleads guilty to animal cruelty charges

Premier League footballer appeared in court in London on Tuesday

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Premier League footballer Kurt Zouma has pleaded guilty in court to two counts of animal cruelty after a video was published online of him kicking and slapping his cat.

The West Ham United defender arrived at court accompanied by several security guards who emerged from a vehicle holding umbrellas trying to form a protective shield around the 27-year-old.

Zouma pleaded guilty to two counts under the Animal Welfare Act when he appeared at Thames Magistrates’ Court in London on Tuesday.

The harrowing footage was filmed and shared by his younger brother Yoan, 24, who admitted one offence during the hearing.

The court was told about footage, filmed at Zouma’s home and posted on Snapchat by his brother on February 6.

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 February 6.

West Ham fined Zouma two weeks' salary – the maximum amount possible – when the incident came to light, but manager David Moyes continued to pick the defender to play.

Yoan, who plays for fifth-tier side Dagenham and Redbridge, 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 in the home.

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.”

Kurt Zouma playing for West Ham against Watford in the Premier League days after footage emerged of him in February kicking and slapping his pet cat. Reuters

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 the Premier League defender has since agreed for his two Bengal male cats to be rehomed.

Experts said the animal that 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.

District Judge Susan Holdham adjourned proceedings until the sentencing hearing on June 1.

The footballer released a statement back in February following the emergence of the video. “I want to apologise 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 behaviour was an isolated incident that will not happen again.”

West Ham also released a statement where they said Zouma was being fined that was being "donated to animal welfare charities".

“Kurt is extremely remorseful and, like everyone at the club, fully understands the depth of feeling surrounding the incident and the need for action to be taken," the club added.

Updated: May 24, 2022, 11:21 AM
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