When Barry Steinberg and his "hearing-ear" dog King were refused entrance to a Bethesda restaurant, the deaf College Park resident instigated a charge against the restaurant for violating a state law allowing the specially trained dogs to accompany their masters into public places.
But King, who has been taught to respond to sounds such as smoke alarms, was barred again -- this time when Steinberg tried Oct. 1 to enter a Silver Spring courtroom where his case was to be heard by District Court Judge Charles W. Woodward.
The deputy sheriff outside the courtroom said dogs weren't allowed, said Steinberg's mother, Phyllis. "He walked away before Barry had a chance to show him the law," a copy of which he also had shown at the restaurant, she said.
But the story is to end tonight, not with a whimper but with a bone.
In a settlement reached in the office of State's Attorney Dwight Price, Hugo Terczi, owner of Luigi's of Bethesda, invited Steinberg and two friends for a free dinner, which they intend to accept tonight.
Steinberg had complained of his and King's exclusion to Price's office, which filed charges against the restaurant.
Terczi said he was out of town when King was barred. If he had been at the door, he said, King would have been admitted; but the manager on duty that night thought other customers would complain to public health officials. Terczi promised to supply King tonight with bones from the kitchen.
Montgomery County Sheriff James Young said he wanted to apologize to Steinberg and promised that hearing-ear dogs would not be barred from county courtrooms.
"It was ignorance on our part that the dog was not allowed in," Young said. "The average person hasn't heard of this type of dog."
The judge could not be reached for comment.
King, 4, a mixed breed, is the first licensed hearing-ear dog in the state. He has lived most of his life with Steinberg, 33, a draftsman with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. There are currently three hearing-ear dogs licensed in Montgomery County and four in Prince George's County, animal control and training officials said.
Steinberg said King accompanied him three years ago into a traffic court in Hyattsville but noted he has been denied entrance to other Maryland restaurants and Smithsonian Institution museums in the District, where there is no similar law.
Maryland, Virginia and 35 other states have laws permitting unlimited access for hearing-ear dogs in public buildings and transports. Barring the dogs is a misdemeanor. In Maryland, a fine of $50 can be assessed for each offense.
In a case settled earlier this year, an Arlington woman won $25,000 in damages after Texas International Airlines wouldn't allow her hearing-ear dog on a flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.