The Ottawa Humane Society officially opened the doors on its new 40,000-square-foot animal shelter in a ceremony Wednesday that attracted some prominent guests, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen.

The federal government contributed $3.6 million towards the shelter, which was built at a cost of close to $12 million.

The facility, which includes an adoption centre and an in-house veterinary clinic, first opened its doors at 245 West Hunt Club Road on June 24 but didn't have its official opening until Wednesday.

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Foreign Affairs minister John Baird handles a cat at the Ottawa Humane Society opening. ((Karen Kelly/CBC))

The shelter is designed to keep cats together in so-called community rooms, while dogs get a more spacious pod where potential owners can visit.

The changes mean a better experience for potential adopters and a better quality of life for animals while they are in the shelter, says executive director Bruce Roney.

"Animals will have the appropriate space, there's natural light coming in, the air quality is excellent and we can do more for each individual animal," said Roney.

Laureen Harper, who is the chair of the society's annual fundraising ball, praised the financial support that came from both government and private sources.

"Today marks the culmination of years of hard work and many generous contributions…That's the love of animals. It makes people crazy," she said.

Foreign Affairs Minister and local MP John Baird was also in attendance, as was Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.