BY STEVE FISHER
IN LOS ANGELES, a little-known search and rescue team leaps off
the tops of buildings to reach a scared cat, high in a tree. They dodge
traffic on crowded freeways to rescue pregnant cows from an overturned tractor-trailer. They crawl through tight, dangerous spaces
to rescue an entombed puppy. They confront their own fears to save
animals of all kinds—wild and domestic, large and small—from
potentially horrible fates. The ;; members are SMART: Specialized
Mobile Animal Rescue Team ( laanimalservices.com/smart).
Founding members Officer Armando Navarrete, SMART team
leader, and Lieutenant Annette Ramirez, alternate team leader, are
partners on the job and off.
“I don’t look at her as a girlfriend on the job,” says Navarrete, who,
like Ramirez, is a Costco member. “I look at her as an alternate team
leader who co-created the team [and] developed a lot of the training
that we still use today to keep everyone safe. I have to put her in situations
that most boyfriends would not put their girlfriend in. But if we get
into something over a cliff … and I don’t let her do it, I’m gonna pay the
price. And I have no problem, because I know that someone competent,
who I trust with my life, is going to be able to do it and get it done.”
The work is never easy, but it has evolved over the years to be more
professional and safer. Navarrete started as an animal-control officer
for the city of Los Angeles in ;;;;.
FOR YOUR PETS
An elite Los
of all kinds
Annette Ramirez, alternate
team leader and co-founder
of SMART, with rescue dog
SMART team leader
with a rescuee.