Legal battle over fish pedicures headed to court Monday

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PHOENIX, Ariz. -- After a four-year battle with the Arizona Board of Cosmetology, small businesswoman and immigrant Cindy Vong will have her day in court Monday.

The Goldwater Institute, a conservative watchdog group, is representing Vong in her lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Cosmetology's decision to block her offering of a "spa fish" treatment in her salon.

Vong offered a special method of foot therapy in her Gilbert, Ariz. nail salon that uses small toothless fish from Asia to nibble on customer's feet as a means of removing dead skin.

Vong's attorney said his client made a significant investment in her business so she could offer the service.

The Arizona Board of Cosmetology says the treatment is not sanitary.  

In 2011, Vong’s attorney, Clint Bolick, told 3TV, "She made a major investment in her salon, bringing in the fish, coming up with a very hygienic system, advertising and actually hiring new staff and then within a few months time, the board told her she had to shut it down and she lost her entire investment and had to lay people off.”

“The board of cosmetology has totally overstepped its bounds. It's supposed to protect the public but what it's protecting the public from is competition and a service that a lot of people have really enjoyed," said Bolick.

In 2011, Donna Aune, the executive director of the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology, told 3TV she’s not willing to compromise consumer safety.

"In the state of Arizona, we don't want to take the chance; we think there may be a potential harm to the consumer."

Aune says that, under the board’s infection protection rules, any tool that comes into contact with the consumer must be either thrown away or disinfected.

According to the Center for Disease Control, there is no evidence that spa fish services pose health and safety risks. While no comprehensive study has been performed in the U.S., a government-sanctioned study in Britain found that the procedure is safe, and the services are performed there widely.

The trial is expected to last two days.

Fight to bring fish pedicures back to Valley