A 2-day civil trial is underway in the case of a valley spa owner accused of violating state law. She's been ordered to stop using fish in pedicures to bite dead skin off of customers' feet.
But that woman is challenging that court order.
They're referred to as fish pedicures and they're popular in Asia, but fairly new here in the U.S. The State Board of Cosmetology forced her to shut down and now she is fighting back in court.
Owner Cindy Vong spent nearly $40,000 setting up the business. She even imported the fish from China.
"The spa fish that I do doesn't harm anyone and it's just a business," says Vong.
But the State Board of Cosmetology doesn't see it that way. According to state law, the tools used in a salon have to be disinfected after each use.
"Fish are not subject by their very nature to the kind of disinfection that is required by the board, of any object that comes into contact with a salon client," says Evan Hiller, attorney for Cosmetology Board.
Cindy Vong took the stand Monday saying she kept her business as clean as she possibly could. her attorney from the Goldwater Institute claims the fish are more about fun than beauty.
"The Board of Cosmetology is regulating this as if it is a form of pedicuring, when in reality it is a form of entertainment," says Clint Bolick, Goldwater Institute.
To prove the fish are harmless, Vong's attorneys flew in an expert from London. Apparently places like this are popular in the UK.
"It is no different than going into any special treatment establishment anywhere in the world, as long as the staff are competent, they are properly trained and the premises are healthy and sanitized in the right way, there is no problem," says Graham Jukes, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
Vong hopes to reopen her east valley business. The judge will have the final say.
"This is not just about Cindy Vong and a very unusual occupation, this is about every American's right to earn an honest living," says Bolick.
Fish pedicures are banned in a handful of states. Vong opened the spa in 2008 but had to close it after less than a year.
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