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Las Vegas City Council considers legalizing fish pedicures

Updated September 17, 2018 - 4:40 pm

Las Vegas beauticians may soon be able to add a tool to their supply: the garra rufa — a living loofah, of sorts.

City officials are considering allowing fish spas, where conventional exfoliation methods for pedicures are replaced with small fish that hail from the Middle East.

“We need to be more innovative here in Las Vegas,” said Councilwoman Michele Fiore, who is sponsoring the ordinance. “Everyone from around the world comes to Vegas.”

The use of the fish to remove dead skin for cosmetic reasons is the subject of debate. Some states have banned fish spas, and at least two proposed fish spa bills have died in the Nevada Legislature in the past nine years. Fish spas are not currently legal in Nevada, said Erin Litterer, lead service specialist with the Nevada State Board of Cosmetology.

Some states have banned fish pedicures because the tubs “cannot be sufficiently cleaned between customers when the fish are present,” because of animal cruelty concerns and because the toothless carp that are native to the Middle East could threaten native plant and animal life if they are released into the wild, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Las Vegas licensing staff have been in contact with state officials about moving forward with a local law, city spokesman Jace Radke said.

The city would test the water to ensure it complies with the ordinance, but “the spa would be used at the consumer’s risk,” Radke said.

If the City Council passed the ordinance, any fish spa that opens in Las Vegas would be required to put together a risk assessment addressing infection control and other employee and customer health matters, procedures for cleaning equipment and the well-being of the fish, including food “whose nutrient levels contribute to optimum levels of fish health.”

Clients would need to be provided written information about fish spa therapy and told that open cuts, infections, skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, diabetes and leg shaving or waxing within the previous 24 hours could increase the risk of infection. Clients would need to acknowledge they’re using the fish spa at their own risk.

The proposal sets out 10 water quality parameters, including temperature, pH level and alkalinity. Fish spa licensees would be responsible for documenting their operations, including fish deaths, purchases of new fish and known customer complaints about sanitary conditions and care of the fish.

The proposed ordinance needs to go to a committee meeting before being placed on a City Council agenda.

Multiple fish spa bills have been proposed at the Nevada Legislature in recent years and have failed. In 2009, Sen. Tick Segerblom sponsored a bill that didn’t even get a hearing. In 2017, lawmakers heard testimony from a pair of Israeli business partners who wanted to import the garra rufa, known as “doctor fish,” into Las Vegas.

“It seemed like it would be perfect for Las Vegas. What happens here stays here, and anything goes,” Segerblom said. “You come to Vegas, you want to take an Instagram of something you’ve never done and there are little fish nibbling on your feet. What’s better than that?”

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @Journo_Jamie_ on Twitter.

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