Albany, NY (WIBX) - The State Senate passed legislation making the theft of a pet dog or cat a felony.

By a vote of 56-2,  the senate voted to pass the bill, changing the existing penal law to include pet theft as grand larceny.

Senator Carl Marcellino, the bill's sponsor, says pets are a valuable part of the family, saying "those who cruelly steal pets for heinous purposes deserve to be tried and convicted of a felony."

According to a study by the American Kennel Club, there was a 49-percent increase of pet thefts reported in the first seven months of last year, compared to 2010.

The Assembly will now have a chance to review the bill.