Great dane

Last year, when a 110-pound Great Dane leapt between a woman and the man who was beating her with a hammer, he not only saved the woman’s life — but he'll likely save the lives of many other victims of domestic abuse by inspiring a big change in policy at one shelter in Kansas City, Mo.

Whether due to instinct, loyalty or bravery, Hank the Great Dane (his name has been changed to protect his safety) responded to his owner's screams by lying on top of her and absorbing the hammer's blows, sustaining broken ribs and a broken hip during the attack. At the urging of police, the woman called the Rose Brooks Center, a local shelter that accepts women and children — but not pets.

The woman told the center that she'd rather sleep in the car with her dog than abandon him or leave the dog with her former boyfriend. In fact, statistics show that many women will stay with abusers or put off leaving dangerous situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets.

Staff at the Rose Brooks Center faced a dilemma: Bend the rules or leave the woman in a vulnerable place. The center not only broke the rules, but it just broke ground on a $140,000, pet-friendly wing for families that features seven kennels for pets — all thanks to one truly great Great Dane.