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PHOENIX (AP/CBS5) -
A judge has rejected an Arizona salon owner's claims that her constitutional rights were violated when cosmetology regulators forced her to stop offering pedicures that use fish to nibble the dead skin off people's feet.
Vong opened a fish spa within her nail salon in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert in October 2008. She invested about $40,000 into remodeling, new equipment and the fish used for those particular pedicures, but was forced to close that part of her business nearly a year later.
The closure was prompted by the state Board of Cosmetology's conclusion that the practice was illegal because the fish were an unsafe tool for skin exfoliation that couldn't be sanitized in between uses.
The Board said that fish pedicures carry a risk of transmitting infectious disease. The board further stated that its decision to prohibit fish pedicures is based on its belief that "because the fish cannot be disinfected and because they remove skin and can cause bleeding, fish pedicures create a risk that customers will be exposed to harmful bacteria and serious diseases."
The Goldwater Institute is an organization that supports protecting freedom and prosperity. The group stood behind Vong in court paying for the lawsuit and said they will do it again if she decides to appeal.
Goldwater Institute staff attorney Christina Sandefur issued the following statement in the wake of the judge's ruling:
Fish pedicures are popular in Asia and spread to some U.S. cities in recent years. But Texas, Washington, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have outlawed the practice.
"Leaving behind oppressive government in Vietnam, Cindy Vong came to the United States to pursue the American Dream, opening up her own salon and offering the state's first spa fish "pedicures," a unique service in which tiny, toothless fish nibble dead skin off customers' feet. We are disappointed that the court has upheld the Board of Cosmetology's arbitrary decision to completely ban spa fish, despite the fact that it allows and regulates other, much riskier spa procedures.
"The Goldwater Institute remains committed to protecting one of the most cherished constitutionally protected rights: the right of entrepreneurs like Cindy Vong to earn an honest living. We will continue to fight on behalf of hard-working American business people like Cindy."
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) contributed to this report.