In the footage, which surfaced on social media in February, Kurt Zouma is seen dropping, kicking and slapping one of his cats, while laughter can be heard in the background. The 27-year-old then chases the animal before throwing a pair of shoes at it and slapping its head.
The RSPCA took care of Zouma’s two cats shortly after the video went viral and an animal cruelty investigation was opened with police.
After an appalled reaction from the public, football fans, animal rights groups and politicians, West Ham have fined Kurt Zouma up to £250,000. The club condemned his actions, but team manager David Moyes continued to pick him for matches.
The Sentencing Council said that to reflect the ‘seriousness’ of such behavior it proposed to expand aggravated behavior to ‘specifically refer to instances where the offender circulated photographs, videos and the like of the offense on social networks”.
Abuse in front of children to carry a longer sentence
Other aggravating factors that will result in longer sentences include anyone classified as an “offender in positions of professional responsibility for animals” such as farmers, veterinarians, pet store owners and animal breeders. It will also include offenses committed in front of a child.
Under the guidelines for the most serious offences, judges are given a sentence of 26 weeks to three years in prison, but have the option of jailing up to a maximum of five years in “extreme” cases.
Those at the top of the scale will involve the death of the animal, “a particularly serious or life-threatening injury”, or very high levels of pain or suffering.
They will be eligible for maximum sentences of three or five years if found guilty of “protracted and/or repeated incidents of serious cruelty and/or sadistic behavior”, use of significant force or “role leader” in illegal activity. .
At the low end, those convicted of animal cruelty could still face at least six months in prison even if there is “little or no” physical injury but some pain. This category targets “well-meaning but incompetent care”, a “momentary or brief lapse in judgment”.
“Animals are not able to defend themselves”
Judge Rosa Dean, a member of the Sentencing Council, said: “Animal cruelty is a serious offense and can cause great distress to animals that have been abused or neglected or even forced to fight for entertainment.
“Animals are unable to defend themselves or call attention to their suffering, and it is important that courts have the power to impose appropriate sentences on offenders who commit these crimes.”
Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA, said: “We are delighted that animals will soon be better protected from those who harm and exploit them.