Emma Presberg ’18 enriches Danville community through humane society volunteer program

Posted by Centre News in Internships, News 11 Apr 2018

emilyEmma Presberg ’18 of Atlanta, Georgia, is the founder and director of a new animal enrichment program at the Danville-Boyle County Humane Society. According to Presberg, the goal is to increase the mental and physical health of animals living in confined environments by diversifying their daily experience. In being exposed to a variety of activities, animals’ stress and negative behavior decreases.

“Enrichment helps animals exhibit behaviors that they would do in the wild or in a more natural setting,” Presberg says.

Centre students who participate in the program will spray different scents into the dogs’ cages to make the habitat more interesting for the animals. “Putting smells in their cages provides olfactory stimulation. This gives them more control over their environment and allows them to engage in species-typical behaviors,” she explains.

Presberg’s volunteers will also be responsible for socialization of the dogs, taking them for walks outside of their cages so that they have the opportunity to interact with humans and other animals. In addition to providing the dogs with new experiences, socialization is a crucial part of the journey to adoption.

“It gives them time to adjust and know how to respond to humans, especially because some of the dogs that come in are strays. To provide them with positive human interaction shows them that people aren’t bad, and they don’t need to be scared of us,” Presberg adds.

As the program will be run entirely through fundraising and volunteerism, Centre’s culture of service has been important to making the project a reality. Presberg is partnering with CentrePAWS, an organization dedicated to volunteering at the Danville-Boyle County Humane Society. She has also reached out to Centre’s Greek organizations, many of which require members to complete a certain number of service hours each semester.

Presberg’s environmental studies and behavioral neuroscience double major helped her develop a focus on animal well-being with an emphasis on conservation. She pursued these interests through Centre’s Creative Thinking Immersion Program, which provides funding and faculty mentorship for students interested in investigating an issue in the Danville community. Her project focused on “shelter stigma,” the hypothesis that dogs exhibit undesirable behavior, such as pacing and barking, more often in cages than they do in adoptive environments.

This research evolved into Presberg’s final project for her environmental studies senior seminar, in which she compared animal enrichment programs in zoos, research institutions, animal shelters and adoptive homes.

“All of these things have culminated into what I’m working on now,” she says.

Although Presberg does not yet have definite post-graduate plans, she has applied for internships at the Atlanta Zoo and Georgia Aquarium. “I definitely want to continue in this field of animal care and enrichment.”

To learn more or get involved in the enrichment program, contact emma.presberg@centre.edu.

by Carbery Campbell ’19
April 11, 2018