Will Arizona Tourism Survive Fish Pedicure Ban?

Open Jaw
A U.S. Supreme Court decision is expected to take a bite out of Arizona tourism. OK, maybe just a nibble. A toothless nibble at that.

The Court has rejected an appeal by the owner a Phoenix-area spa that ran afoul of Arizona regulations that barred her from providing pedicures in which clients have their feet nibbled by small fish to remove dead skin.

The high court's action, made without comment by the justices – how could they resist? - ends a years-long case over fish pedicures, which have become a popular alternative to exfoliation for some spa-goers but are banned in some U.S. states for health and safety reasons.

The procedure involves customers placing their feet in a water tank filled with toothless Garra rufa fish, also known as doctor fish, which suck the dead tissue off their feet to leave them feeling softer. (Isn't there a cream for that?)

Cindy Vong, who has operated a nail salon in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert since 2006, introduced the treatment in 2008. She imported fish from China and remodeled her business to create a separate fish spa area.

In 2009, she was told by the Arizona Board of Cosmetology that the treatment violated the agency's safety standards, and that she could face criminal charges. The board said any tool or equipment used in a pedicure must be stored and disinfected in a specific way, and that she could not disinfect the fish coming in contact with clients' skin.

Later that year, Vong closed the fish spa part of her salon, and the Phoenix-based conservative Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit against the board in state superior court on her behalf. Over the past years the case has made its way through higher courts and finally to the pinnacle of U.S. justice, which has clearly stated: “No fishing."

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