It seemed to Abigail Bishop, a local artist, that art lovers are animal lovers and that artists love animals also. Out of this connection came her idea to hold an art auction to raise funds for a new animal shelter for Salt Lake County.

Bishop became aware of the current animal shelter's shortcomings as a new member of the Humane Education and Awareness Advisory Board (HEAAB), and she quickly saw that her experiences in running a business and participating in arts fairs could be applied to fund raising.She approached her friends Kate Bullen and Patrick Hoagland with the idea of using their store, Elemente, for the auction, and they went for it. Fellow HEAAB member Robyn Carter took on the task of handling the food for the reception. Art for Animals was born.

Nearly 40 Utah artists have responded to the call by donating work for the silent auction and reception, which will be held May 6 from 7 to 10 p.m. at Elemente, 353 W. Pierpont Ave. The bidding will close at 9 p.m. and high bidders will be announced afterward. Purchase prices and $3 door donations will go directly to the building fund for the new shelter.

Bishop says her interest in raising funds for the new shelter was really stimulated when she adopted Sadie, who had been abused, "but turned into a really neat dog. Just like people, they need to be treated well. I was kind of inspired by seeing how a good home can change an animal's personality."

"My goal is to create a less stressful atmosphere for the animals. With a more pleasant place to go, there might also be more adoptions. I just want to make the animals comfortable while they're at the shelter."

Julie Smith, Public Affairs Coordinator for Salt Lake County Animal Services, says the current shelter, located at 511 W. 3900 South, is overcrowded and obsolete. It was purchased in the mid-1970s as a temporary holding facility and has not been upgraded or expanded to serve the needs of the county, which have grown due to population expansion.

"The shelter only has 36 dog runs, but houses between 125 to 150 dogs on a weekly basis, which creates overcrowding and extreme stress for the animals," Smith says. "The isolation and injury units are not separate; this is not a wise choice, but we have no other choice. During the summer months the number of cats impounded far exceeds the 21 cat rooms, and you can't put two unfamiliar cats together."

A new up-to-date shelter would not only address these problems but would also provide a drainage and airflow system that would better protect the animals against the spread of disease and include indoor-outdoor runs to help reduce stress levels among the animals, Smith says. Another improvement would be a separate adoption facility that would allow Animal Services to hold animals longer for adoptions. Currently animals are held only for three full working days.

Peggy Hinnen, director of Salt Lake County Animal Services, says the new shelter will cost at least $500,000.

"The reason we're trying to generate our own funds is that the county commissioners don't feel comfortable raising taxes," Hinnen says. "The commision wants a no-growth budget; I support that, being a taxpayer as well as a county employee. The fact remains that the shelter is inadequate for the animals' needs, so we're appealing to the public to help provide the funds."

Hinnen encourages animal lovers who cannot attend the auction to donate directly to the HEAAB Shelter Fund, 2035 E. 3300 South, Suite 332, Salt Lake City, UT 84109.

The public is also invited to attend the shelter's Be Kind to Animals Week Open House May 13 from noon until 4 p.m. Tours, grooming and obedience demonstrations and horse-drawn carriage rides will be offered. For more information call 264-2246.

These comments by a few of the artists participating in the auction illustrate the artist-animal connection:

Julie Taff: "I did a wood and papier-mache sculpture of a really cute, loving dog tied to a stake in a yard. When I was really young my family had a dog that we kept this way; we'd go to school and our folks would go to work and we'd leave him tied up.

"Some people don't realize the responsibility of having an animal. They need to be aware of their responsibility and not abuse the dog because of their ignorance. If they're educated they will know that they have to treat animals with sensitivity, like a member of the family.

"Sometimes I think people need to see themselves reflected before they recognize what they're doing. That's why I did the piece, because a lot of people don't realize what they're doing. They might see the piece and say, `Oh!' "

Anne Quigley: "The images that I use are elk, coyotes, horses, mountains and flowers. The statement that I'm trying to make is that preservation of our Earth lies in the preservation of these animals. (Quigley donated a porcelain plate with an image of a coyote.) I hope that people who see the coyote image will change their way of feeling about the animal; people have developed a whole different idea of the coyote in just the past five years. If it makes people think that an animal deserves a place on this Earth . . ."

Doug Simmons: "Right now cats and dogs and cows are real popular" (speaking about his "wearable art"). "Cats are really the most popular. I have two cats. I'd never had pets before; I got interested by doing art for people in a cat club. They thought I needed a couple of cats and I guess I do because I love them.

"A lot of people take on pets when they really shouldn't. In my neighborhood a lot of people had cats and when they moved they just left them. I think it's good to get the message out that people need to take responsibility for their pets by keeping them confined and getting them neutered so there aren't so many strays and they need to have a place to take them if they have to give them up. If you're going to have a pet, you need to take care of it."

Lee Deffebach: "I just did a show of 30 cats and was happy to donate for a good cause. In my case I don't do animals; I was taking a monograph painting class. I had a cat, McGraw, who was 17 years old and was getting weaker and couldn't last much longer. For two weeks I made drawings - I did 30 of them and then I thought `why not have a show of McGraw?' I usually do large abstract paintings, so it was very different for me. I enjoyed it. She did die soon after, but she had had a good long life.

"I now have two cats and a dog and I think it's very important to have animals around. It gives you a different perspective - or maybe keeps things in the correct perspective. Sometimes they can be better conversationalists than people."

Maureen O'Hara Ure: "My piece (Bill and Friend by the Back Fence) is a cutout of two dogs, my dog and another dog. I used that friendship between dogs almost like a little stand-in for friendships between people. It was a found-object sculpture; I redrew and repainted it and cut it out of masonite and assembled it in a found-object construction.

"One connection between animals and artists is that they make you more playful and childlike; obviously that's part of being an artist."

Bonnie Sucec: "I usually use animal imagery; I love animals. My piece is of two animals meeting head-on, two donkeys, one has a blindfold and one is walking on bottles - I call it the Day of Reckoning. Animals are so interesting and so alive. I like to look at them. It's kind of funny because I'm really allergic to cats and dogs, but I like them anyway. How people treat animals really reflects how they are - they don't have to love them; it's more a matter of respect."

Other artists donating work for the auction include: Lory Smith, Bri Matheson, Wendy Perkins, Tom Judd, Susan Kirby, Mary Livingston, Lucy Fairchild, Carla Player, Whitney Wallace, Kimberly Henneman, Becky Menlove, Kris Havlick, Lisa Carlson, Helen Baird, Bryn Haroldsen, Kay Kuzminski, Glen Richards, Carl Pace, Jay Reiser, Laurie Knaphus, Kara Lee Bebo, K.C. Deneris, Patty Lingwall, Brett Colvin, Willie Littig, Camille Lytte, Renee Page, Andrea Leichliter, Cynthia Fehr, Brooke Morrison, Joan Cowles and Nel Ivanich.