Since young children naturally identify with animals, and because animals are living beings like us, we can use our interactions with animals to teach children how to behave toward other people. Teaching our kids to respect and protect even the smallest and most despised among us is one of the most important life lessons that we can pass along to them. It helps them learn to value one another—and it prevents violence.Decades of evidence show that a child’s attitude toward animals can predict future behavior. According to published reports, in every highly publicized school shooting, one warning sign appeared consistently: All the young killers abused or killed animals before turning on their classmates.According to FBI profilers, psychiatric professionals, law-enforcement officials, and child advocacy organizations, people who hurt animals may eventually direct violence toward humans. Cruelty to animals is considered one of three symptoms that predict the development of a psychopath, and it is included as a criterion for a conduct disorder in children by the American Psychiatric Association.People who are capable of such acts have a severely underdeveloped sense of empathy—they lack the ability to comprehend or care about the distress or agony that they are causing. Without empathy, it is easy to think of others as unfeeling machines. Teaching kindness and respect for animals is the first step in teaching children empathy.