The Texas House Tuesday unanimously voted to enhance penalties for theft of livestock.

Current law punishes cattle thieves with a third-degree felony, which is punishable by as much as 10 years in prison and a fine of as much as $10,000 if they steal more than 10 head of cattle, horses or exotic livestock.

Under the bill approved Tuesday, any theft of cattle, horses or exotic livestock would be a third-degree felony.

The bill would also make it a third-degree felony to steal more than 10 head of smaller livestock such as sheep, goats and pigs.

Current law requires a theft of more than 100 head of sheep, goats or swine before it is a third-degree felony.

The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association applauded the House vote, saying that though Texas is the largest cattle producer in the nation, it is more lenient on cattle theft than neighboring states.

The association says rustling is on the rise and cattle raisers reported 6,404 thefts to the association in 2008, more than twice as many as in 2007.

The Senate has already passed the bill. It now heads to the governor for consideration.