Second Life thrift store gives second chances to homeless pets

Pet art at the Second Life Atlanta thrift shop. CREDIT: SHELIA POOLE

Pet art at the Second Life Atlanta thrift shop. CREDIT: SHELIA POOLE

The Second Life thrift store is all about giving second chances to Georgia’s homeless pets.

Since its opening six years ago, the Avondale Estates store has donated more than $825,000 to animal rescue groups and shelters.

Owners Tanya Mahrous Tobias and her husband, Toby Tobias, hope to raise that to $1 million by the end of the year.

“We wanted to make a difference in the world for animals,” said Tanya Tobias, who left her job in the airline industry to follow her passion to help animals. “People don’t just rescue animals but animals rescue people as well.”

The owners of Second Life Atlanta, a six-year old nonprofit thrift store in Avondale Estates, want to help homeless pets. Co-founders Toby and Tanya Tobias donate money to help various nonprofits and hope to reach $1 million this year. CREDIT: SHELIA POOLE

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Their inspiration was Lucky, a 75-pound Dalmatian who had been deemed “unadoptable” and was just days away from being put down when the Tobiases added him to their family.

Lucky was designated the “CSO,” chief smile officer, and used to sit in the store’s window and watch people walking by.

“We joke that Lucky kept us in business that first year,” said Tanya Tobias. “People would see him and come in. We’re very thankful he was with us and he truly inspired us.”

Second Life sells donated gently-used clothes, shoes, housewares, furniture, artwork, books and accessories at two stores next door to each other. Customers are encouraged to bring their dogs with them when they shop, and sometimes shoppers may find a foster cat or two in the shops.

In the main store, much of the artwork includes messages about pet adoption, the value pets bring to humans and the importance of spaying and neutering.

The Second Life Atlanta thrift store is decorated with pet art, some of which carries a message. CREDIT: SHELIA POOLE

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The first year in business Second Life gave $13,000 to four local animal charities. So far, more than 60 pet rescue groups, humane societies and other animal charities have received grants, starting at $400. The money had flowed into several counties including Fulton, DeKalb, Clarke, Cobb, Cherokee, Bartow and Gwinnett, and the Tobiases looking to expand their reach.

One group that has been helped is PAWSitive Supporters, a Cobb County shelter support group.

The organization has received $5,000 over the years to pay for spay and neutering services for more than 50 pets.

“With that money we can reduce the number of unwanted litters,”said founder and president Fran Jackson “It’s the right thing to do. If we spay and neuter, we don’t have the overpopulation. We just don’t have enough homes, and there are limits to how many animals we can all adopt.”

Keeping the number of litters low, she said, reduces the number of cats and dogs that have to be killed.

“This truly was supposed to be a small boutique that she would run,” said Toby Tobias, who used to work in corporate training. “After the first year we realized it was going to be a lot and I ended up coming on board and helping out.”

His mom and dad volunteer in the shop, which has several full- and part-time workers and dozens of volunteers.

Lucky, the Dalmatian, died Dec. 22, 2011 at about 16 years old.

While on a trip to Egypt to visit relatives in 2012, the couple met Riley, a German short-hair-Pointer mix, and brought him home to foster. He had been rescued and lived in a shelter there. He was sleeping on a metal bed without a cushion and has become the nonprofit’s new CSO.

“Our stores are the centerpiece of what we do,”said Tanya Tobias. “We help educate people about the great benefits of adopting. I don’t think of us as just a thrift store. This is a means for us to generate the funds so we can do great work and save lives.”