Enforcing the new tattoo law - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Fanna Haile-Selassie

Enforcing the new tattoo law

Rochester, MN (KTTC0-DT) --

The beginning of 2011 was the due date for Minnesota tattoo parlors to have their licenses. It's part of the Body Art Regulation law that passed last May. But this new law is already proving to be a challenge to enforce.

The law actually went into effect last July, but it gave tattoo parlors and artists a 6-month window to get their paperwork in. And a lot of that paperwork came in last minute, creating a big backlog for the Minnesota Department of Health.

As of January 1st, every Minnesota tattoo parlor should have one of these in its shop, as well as each tattoo artist. It's a provisional tattooing license, now required by law.

"You know, you should be licensed to do this because it's a very permanent thing. It's one of those things that you have to be very certain of what you're getting, because it's going to be on there forever," says tattoo artist Seth Snell.

"There were some spots that weren't as clear."

Dominique Wright knows first-hand about the need for licenses. He says he won't make that mistake again.

"I like, more or less, what I get from professional shops than I do with unprofessional people. Because the risk of getting ink poisoning or any kind of disease from un-sterile needles and stuff like that, it's not worth at any cost of a cheaper price."

Unsanitary parlors are one of the primary reasons for the license law, but 6 months after going into affect, the state has a backlog of requests and not all parlors have their licenses yet, meaning they could be operating illegally. And to get the official license, not a provisional one, a state inspector has to first give the parlor the all-clear. That's of course if there was a state inspector.

"The inspector position has been posted and we have had several applicants. We're in the process of getting ready for interviews and the final hiring," explains Kyle Renell with the Minnesota Department of Health.

And then the single inspector has to go through training before being dispatched across the state to check on hundreds of tattoo parlors. Needless to say, it will be a while. So when it comes to enforcing the rules, the state Department of Health is currently relying on customers to file complaints if a parlor is not following the law.

"I still try to go somewhere where I know it's going to get done right, and somewhere that I know is licensed to do this," says Brian Will, a fan of the law.

The Minnesota Department of Health is pushing for steeper punishments if anyone breaks the law, but for now, the penalty is a civil fine, which could be as high as $10,000, but it's highly unlikely.

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