A lawsuit brought by an NBA player and his brother against a professional Maryland dog breeder ended last week with a victory for the breeder, who was found to be the true owner of the two enormous, high-end show dogs at the center of the dispute.
Vickie Venzen, who runs Vickie’s Handling and Training Services in Abingdon, will get to keep the pair of cane corso dogs whose ownership was challenged by Jabari Parker, a power forward who most recently played for the Boston Celtics, and his brother, Christian Parker, in the 2020 lawsuit.
Harford County Circuit Judge Yolanda L. Curtin threw out all of the Parkers’ claims against Venzen in a bench opinion issued last week. Curtin found that Christian Parker bought the two dogs in question, Shera and Congo, for Venzen as payment for dog handling services she had provided over three years.
Parker did not have an ownership stake in the dogs as he claimed in the lawsuit, Curtin ruled. The judge dismissed Jabari Parker, who also claimed ownership of the dogs in the complaint, as a plaintiff at an earlier stage of the civil trial.
Christian Parker spent $45,000 to buy the two dogs in 2019, according to evidence presented in the case. Venzen had spent the past three years providing extensive, long-term assistance to Parker as he tried to break into the world of cane corso handling and breeding, according to Curtin’s factual findings.
Venzen helped Parker find and purchase several cane corso dogs, which are an Italian breed of mastiff said to have been used as war dogs during the Roman empire. Parker relied heavily on Venzen to care for the dogs because he was an inexperienced dog owner, Curtin found.
The value of Venzen’s services over those three years totaled about $57,000, Curtin said. The judge found that Venzen and Parker reached an informal agreement that Parker would buy Shera and Congo and give them to Venzen as payment for her work.
Parker was also supposed to receive some benefits from the deal, including a litter of puppies from Shera and a puppy sired by Congo, Curtin found. Puppies bred by the dogs are worth thousands of dollars, as are stud services for male dogs.
Curtin’s findings relied on testimony from Venzen and text messages between Venzen and Parker because there was no written agreement for the dogs’ ownership. Curtin dismissed the breach of contract, unjust enrichment and conversion allegations that the Parkers brought against Venzen.
“I am elated. I could not have asked for a better outcome,” said Venzen, who is nationally recognized for her work with the cane corso breed. “It’s unfortunate any of this had to happen, but the reality is that the dog community is very ‘dog eat dog,’ so I’m glad Judge Curtin was able to see through the big names, money and mistruths and essentially call off the dogs.”
Attorney Eric S. Lickstein, who represented the Parkers in the lawsuit, said the case shows the importance of written contracts.
“Ultimately, it’s a lesson that no matter what, you should always have a written contract, especially when you’re paying someone $45,000,” Lickstein said.
Garrett E. Brierley, a Towson lawyer who represented Venzen, said in a statement that the plaintiffs’ case was “all bark, no bite.”