Battle over Fish Spa Goes to Appeals Court

A lawsuit over fish pedicures at a Gilbert salon heads to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

The business owner says the state Board of Cosmetology's decision to shut down her spa-fish treatment violates her constitutional rights, but the board says the practice is unsafe and should be banned.

The Goldwater Institute filed the suit on behalf of the spa owner. They say the board didn't have the power to shut the practice down, but the board disagrees.

A legal battle is now being fought over these tiny fish. Cindy Vong's Gilbert salon used the fish for pedicures. They eat dead skin off client's feet.

"The fish is healthy and not a danger to anybody and the practice has been going on overseas for so long," says spa owner Cindy Vong.

But the Arizona Board of Cosmetology argues fish pedicures are unsafe because the fish can't be sterilized.

"I think that they could cause harm to the public and that's why we're here. We see infections, we see MRSA, we've seen flesh eating bacteria fungus and we don't believe that this is the way to protect the public," says Donna Aune from the Arizona Board of Cosmetology.

A lower court had dismissed a previous suit, but Vong's attorney says she has the right to be heard.

"When you really think about this, this is really no different than wading into a lake except it's far more sanitary. Fish nibble at you when you swim in a lake. Is the Board of Cosmetology going to rush down to the lake and pull everybody out?" says Clint Bolick from the Goldwater Institute.

The State Board of Cosmetology argues they do have the power to ban the use of fish, and says Vong didn't appeal the case properly, so it shouldn't be heard.

Vong says clients loved having fish feast on their feet, and she hopes to bring the practice back.

"I just wish that I had my day in court and I think that the people should have the right to choose to have their pedicure to have their feet entertained with the fish," says Vong.

The Court of Appeals is expected to make a decision within the next three days. They'll decide whether Vong's spa fish treatment is over for good or whether the case will go to trial in Superior Court.

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