Tattoo law getting sketched out

August 27, 2015 • Local News

Roswell City Councilor Natasha Mackey, shown here speaking at the Aug. 19 luncheon of the Chaves County Republican Women, is sponsoring an ordinance that would prohibit body art establishments within 300 feet of a school and require all body artists to obtain licenses from the city. (Jeff Tucker Photo)


A committee of Roswell elected leaders is scheduled today to begin drawing out a proposal to regulate tattoo and body piercing in the city in an effort to protect public health.

The proposal on the table would prohibit body art establishments within 300 feet of a school and require all body artists to obtain body artist licenses from the city, with a mandatory fine of $500 for violations.

“A lot of it is for discussion purposes,” City Attorney William Zarr said Wednesday. “It’s something that’s there for discussion to develop.”

The Roswell City Council’s Legal Committee is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. today to discuss the proposed ordinance that would license and regulate body art practices and businesses in the city.

The committee’s meeting will be in the conference room of City Hall at 425 N. Richardson Ave.

The Legal Committee is comprised of City Councilors Tabitha Denny, Steve Henderson, Natasha Mackey and Jason Perry.

Perry, chair of the Legal Committee, said the body art proposal is Mackey’s initiative.

“Councilor Mackey is the one who is bringing this to the table,” Perry said Wednesday. “Councilor Mackey is the one who has requested us to look into this. She’s been working with the attorney on this one.”

Mackey local oversight is needed of the city’s tattoo parlors and piercing shops.

“We have some citizens that are concerned about health in the tattooing arena,” Mackey said Wednesday. “There are deadly strains of MRSA that are attached with tattooing, as well as hepatitis C. So we want to put some regulations in place to make it a little bit healthier environment and ensure that people’s health and safety are protected in our city.”

The proposed ordinance would require body art establishments to obtain body art establishment business licenses from the city. Applicants would be required to show proof of a valid body art operator license from the state, pursuant to the state’s Body Arts Safe Practices Act, passed by state lawmakers in 2008.

The state law requires body artist operators to obtain licenses from the Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists within the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, with annual license fees up to $300. Operators must show the state board proof of current immunization, attendance at a blood-borne pathogen training program and other training programs as required by the board before a license is issued or renewed.

“From my understanding, the regulatory board from the state is a little backlogged, so they don’t get around as much as needed to make sure that licenses stay current,” Mackey said. “We want to do something on a city level to help out.”

Ear piercings and medical procedures by physicians are exempted under state law.

There is no federal law regulating the practice of tattooing.

“The purpose of this ordinance is to ensure that the minimum standards for safe body art practices occur in the city by providing for business licensing of body art establishments at the local governmental level and to provide more stringent standards for safe body art practices as the governing body may deem appropriate for the protection of the public,” the city’s proposed ordinance states.

Mackey said the city already has a business license procedure in place that could be utilized for body art licenses.

“We already have a business license that’s required, so there will probably continue to be that same business license, maybe a different level,” Mackey said. “We are working on how to enforce the ordinance. That’s going to be the key piece for it actually working.”

Mackey said there is nothing in state law to prevent those with hepatitis C, for example, from getting tattoos.

“There have been people who have hepatitis C issues,” she said. “Of course, we may not recommend that they receive tattoos or be in that type of environment, and then, of course, the workers themselves. That’s a concern as well. MRSA is a bacterial infection. There’s a new strain that is even more deadly that’s been attached to tattooing. So we want to keep our citizens safe.”

Zarr said the city currently has no ordinance regulating body art administrations and/or establishments.

“This would be something new,” Zarr said. “There could be something in there tangentially that deals or mentions tattoos somewhere. There might be something in zoning that says a home occupation can’t be one. As far as something that really regulates it like this, no.”

The proposed city ordinance would require body art establishments to provide the city evidence that they have successfully passed state inspections.

It would also require body art establishments to be located at least 300 feet from a private or public school, unless waived by the city council.

The city ordinance, as presented, would prohibit body art at any location other than a permanent, licensed body art establishment. The ordinance would prohibit home-based body art establishments.

“No person shall administer body art unless that person shall possess a body artist license from the state board, which shall not have been suspended or expired,” the proposed ordinance states. “No operator shall permit any person to administer body art in the operator’s body art establishment unless that person possesses a valid and unsuspended license issued by the state.”

State law contains no minimum age to receive tattoos or piercings, but it does say minors must have written consent from parents or guardians, who are required to be present during procedures.

The proposed city ordinance would prohibit administering body art on any person under 18 years old.

“Under the state law, we’re allowed to adopt more stringent regulations,” Zarr said. “It’s really not in any final form. It’s sort of for discussion purposes.”

The Roswell Code Enforcement Division would annually inspect body art establishments to determine their compliance with provisions of the proposed ordinance and the state law.

“It shall be unlawful for anyone to administer body art without a state or city license as required by law … or for anyone to administer body art in any place other than a duly licensed body art establishment,” the city’s proposed ordinance states. “Upon conviction of a violation of this subsection, the municipal court shall impose, in addition to any other penalty, a mandatory fine of $500.”

Mackey emphasized the language of the proposed ordinance is subject to change.

“There’s nothing etched in stone at this point,” she said. “It’s just a proposal, a draft ordinance.”

Staff Writer Jeff Tucker may be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at

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4 Responses to Tattoo law getting sketched out

  1. Avatar FOXY says:

    Didn’t Mackey vote to roll back the no- smoking ordinance? And now she wants new laws to regulate tattoos. One argument for allowing public smoking was “our Police are too busy” to ticket illegal smokers, so I doubt they have time to deal with this. Second hand smoke is unavoidable, but body art is a choice.

  2. Avatar FOXY says:

    How many people dies from secondhand tattoo

  3. Avatar pete49 says:

    As long as the tattoo artist meets the state requirements and has a business license that should be enough. There is too much government intrusion into all businesses as it is. Enough already.

  4. Avatar Cruzie says:

    I Like regulating business. I keeps it safe and fair. People that play by the rules are honest are a better choice to do biz with. Lets just be careful not over step our enforcement. Sounds like she has too much time on her hands. Why not battle the real problems like drug use and domestic violence. Tattoos omg…

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