Cultural awareness for veterinary clinicians

This guide is designed to help veterinary clinicians to consider cultural differences in clients

Somali Culture

Minnesota is home to the country's largest population of Somali residents, which numbered ~80,000* as of 2020. Most of these Somalis live in the metro area, particularly in Minneapolis.

Most dogs in Somalia are wild.  As a result, dogs are considered unclean in Somalia culture and are generally not allowed in areas homes; it is not common to have them as pets. Clinicians should try to keep Somali clients away from dogs when visiting a practice, and not to offer them a place to sit previously occupied by a dog. Islam does teach that it is okay to touch a dog or any other animal, as the faith believes that no animal or any creations of Allah has been cursed in any way. However, it is generally taught that if a dog touches or licks you or any part of your clothing, then this needs to be promptly cleaned.

Livestock is a major economic engine in Somalia, contributing ~40% of their GDP.  Sheep ~14 million, goats ~13 million, camels ~7 million, and cattle ~5 million. (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2015).   At 1,800 pounds and more, Somalia’s camels are the biggest in Africa, and they furnish the tough but tasty meat eaten with spaghetti.  Additionally, the milk sold by roadside entrepreneurs in scavenged plastic bottles, the hides used to build tents, and the dung used to build the walls of huts.

In Somalia, goat meat typically was not available to people in lower income groups, so they were more familiar with meat from camels and cows.  Finding Halal meat sources, which is required under Muslim beliefs and practices, can be challenging, and there is increasing interest in finding opportunities for raising goats and slaughtering them using Halal practices. Pork and pork by-products (e.g. gelatin) prohibited in Islam and rarely consumed in Somalia.

*Definitive Somali population statistics were difficult to locate, as they are usually added to African American numbers in governmental statistics.


  • Fuseini, A, Knowles, T, Hadley, P, Wotton, S. Food and companion animal welfare: the Islamic perspective. CAB Reviews 2017. 12(043):1-6.
Last Updated: Apr 24, 2023 11:27 AM