Hearing on feet-nibbling fish Monday - East Valley Tribune: News

Hearing on feet-nibbling fish Monday

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Posted: Friday, March 19, 2010 5:51 pm | Updated: 3:51 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge will begin deciding on Monday whether the Arizona Board of Cosmetology's order to ban the practice of using fish to nibble off dead skin during treatments holds water.

A Gilbert salon and spa owner wants to bring back the feel of fish on customers' feet as they nibble off dead skin during treatments. But a Maricopa County Superior Court judge will begin deciding on Monday whether the Arizona Board of Cosmetology's order to ban the practice holds water.

The hearing involving a civil lawsuit filed by the Goldwater Institute on behalf of Cindy Vong, owner of LaVie Nails and Spa at 1534 E. Ray Road, that would allow her to continue the practice will be at 2 p.m. Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court with Judge Bethany Hicks.

The Arizona Board of Cosmetology ordered Vong to stop the practice in September, contending that the use of Garra rufa fish, or 2-inch carps without teeth, to make feet smooth is unhealthy and unsanitary. The board also contends that Vong's practice violates state statutes and the board's regulations.

However, the Goldwater Institute, an independent government watchdog group with a public interest and litigation team, believes that the state board's order violates Vong's freedom of enterprise under the state and federal constitutions and wants to revoke the order against Vong.

Le Templar, a spokesman for the Goldwater Institute, told the Tribune on Friday that tools used for removing dead skin must be sterilized, a procedure that would kill fish.

Templar also said that the state board has failed to present evidence that the process is unhealthy.

"We're saying that the state statutes and rules adopted by the Arizona Board of Cosmetology do not cover this kind of treatment. The cosmetology board wants to describe this as a pedicure when it isn't," Templar said.

"It's just a completely different kind of treatment. The board doesn't have any regulations in place covering the use of fish."

The Arizona Board of Cosmetology is seeking to have the case dismissed and filed a motion with the judge to do so in late December.

Vong had started offering the $30, 20-minute fish pedicure sessions in October 2008 but stopped in April 2009. She was facing a $750 fine and six months' probation.

Although no specific damages have been outlined in the lawsuit, Vong said she had to lay off three people from her spa and hopes the case will move forward so she can ultimately bring back the fish treatments.

"I think it's ridiculous," Vong said of the cosmetology board's order. "People like the treatments, and I think it's up to people to make a choice."

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CONTACT WRITER: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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