A legal complaint has been filed in Paris against the 27-year-old West Ham and France defender following widespread outrage at a video showing him attacking his pet at his home in Essex.
The footage caused lawyers working for the 30 Million Friends Foundation (La Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis), the largest animal rights group in France, to contact French prosecutors.
A spokesman for the group said: ‘We condemn this heinous act, have asked that the player be suspended from the France team, and filed a legal complaint against him.’
Tough new animal protection laws were introduced in France in 2021, meaning that the ‘mistreatment of animals’ is now punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine equivalent to £50,000.
According to Article 113-6 of the French Penal Code, a French citizen can be prosecuted for criminal acts carried out abroad.
Aggravating factors in any criminal prosecution include acts of violence being committed in front of other people, or if the animal belongs to the attacker.
“In the case of Kurt Zouma, the video appears to show aggravating facts, so he could be in very serious trouble,” said a source close to the case.
Zouma released a statement on Tuesday saying he was “deeply sorry” for his actions and claimed it was “an isolated incident”.
Senior French politicians have also condemned Zouma, who is from the eastern city of Lyon, and called for him to be removed from France’s national team.
Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Rally party and a presidential candidate, said: “It’s shameful. I still think that those who are capable of cruelty to animals are also capable of cruelty towards men. Violence is never trivial.”
In the UK, Essex Police have confirmed they are liaising with the animal welfare charity RSPCA as part of their “urgent enquiries”.
A statement from the Metropolitan Police said the investigation is “being led by the RSPCA”.
It added because the alleged incident happened “outside of the geographical area… policed by the Met” it does not fall within their remit.
More than 80,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Zouma to be prosecuted amid a growing backlash.
While West Ham said they “unreservedly condemn” the actions of Zouma, the player was selected by boss David Moyes in the starting line-up for Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Watford, sparking criticism from fans, pundits and animal charities alike.