Arizona salon loses fish pedicures suit

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY,  |  March 18, 2013 at 5:13 PM
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An Arizona salon owner lost the appeal in a suit claiming her constitutional rights were violated after officials threatened to pull her license over controversial "fish pedicures."

Cindy Vong alleged her Phoenix salon's profits were negatively impacted and her due process rights violated when the Arizona Board of Cosmetology threatened in 2009 to revoke her license if she did not stop offering treatments in which small Garra Rufa fish eat dead skin off clients' feet.

Vong opened La Vie nails in October 2008, and closed the fish pedicure part of her business after about a year.

The lawsuit was filed by the libertarian Goldwater Institute on behalf of Vong in December 2009, charging the state board lacked jurisdiction over the fish pedicures because they were not a cosmetic service.

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge tossed the suit Friday, saying Vong had no constitutional right to run the fish pedicure operation.

Fish spas are popular in Asia, and the treatment has spread to the U.S., although Vong says there are no regulations in Arizona prohibiting their operation. Laws in Texas, Washington, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have outlawed the practice over health concerns.

Vong charged $30 for 20 minutes of the fish pedicure treatment, which she said was popular and profitable. She said she invested $40,000 setting up her salon for the operation.

A cosmetology board attorney said they applied the same standards of sanitation as other procedures, such as the disinfecting of scissors between customers' haircuts.

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