Josh Marquis, the former Clatsop County district attorney, has been hired as the director of legal affairs for Animal Wellness Action.
Marquis will help coordinate efforts by the national advocacy group to modernize state and federal laws against animal cruelty and promote enforcement.
He began taking an interest in prosecuting animal cruelty cases during his first job as a deputy district attorney in Lane County in 1981.
“I got made fun of,” Marquis said. “I was called the dog deputy, because I thought these cases ought to be taken seriously.”
Marquis, a self-described cat person, had animals as a child but did not own any between 14 and 39, he said, because he didn’t feel he had a permanent home. But shortly after being named district attorney in Clatsop County in 1994, he went to a rescue shelter in Eugene and adopted two kittens he said would be his companions for 20 years.
During his time as the county’s top prosecutor, Marquis tried numerous animal cruelty cases. One of his first was against Vikki Kittles, a woman who hoarded as many as 117 dogs, two cats and a rooster in a school bus in Knappa.
After the case, Marquis joined other lawyers, politicians and activists to lobby for legislation that would upgrade a number of animal cruelty charges from misdemeanors to felonies. In 1995, the state adopted what is often referred to as the “Kittles Bill,” becoming the 12th state in the country — now one of 46 — to add felony provisions.
“Josh Marquis has a unique mix of skills as a trial lawyer and a fierce public advocate, bringing special skills to the task of fortifying the legal framework against animal cruelty,” Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action, said in a news release. “Marquis’ 35 years of commitment to fighting animal abuse and neglect will help create partnerships that cross traditional political and professional divides.”
Marquis has served on the governing board of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and co-chaired the media relations committee for the National District Attorneys Association.
Oregon has made many strides in animal cruelty laws, Marquis said. He’s hoping in his new position to move the needle nationally in terms of protection.
“(Animals are) more than a mere possession, and people need to take that more seriously,” he said.