(although some of the European countries may have slightly different regulations, this will give you some idea of what is involved...This does NOT cover just having a puppy shipped from Europe in Cargo. That will be covered in another section. This section outlines how to go and get a pup, or have someone bring the pup back from you.
Italicized comments are added for clarification
Thanks to Jos Marlowe for the following...
I have done this 3 times. My breeder did it for me once (coming to visit us with 2 puppies, one of which was for a different family). I live in California and my puppies came from France.
Basically the customs people do not want anyone to bring diseases back. Their concerns were especially focused on puppies that came from farms. Puppies that came for cities or breeders that only breed dogs (i.e. no cattle, horses, pigs, etc.) were OK. The last time I did this they also confiscated the puppy chow the breeder sent with me because they were concerned about mad cow disease.
The way I do it is this: I travel to France on air France. I make arrangements to bring a puppy back with me in the cabin. The puppy must weigh less than 10 kilos (22 lbs) and there can only be one puppy in the cabin.(Note: Air France is more relaxed about these rules -- my breeder brought 2 puppies with her in the cabin ... but don't count on being able to do that)
The puppies must have an airline approved dog carrier that will fit under the seat (you can get these from most pet stores). In addition you will need paper towels and dog food, food that the puppy is used to. I ship all my clothes back separately so I am only carrying the puppy and the things the puppy needs for the trip.
You have to get a certificate of health from a French vet, basically stating that the puppy is healthy. In addition, the puppy must have its 8-week-old shots and the puppy must appear healthy.
Then you take the puppy in its carrier and get it a boarding pass. Carry it through baggage check, do NOT send it through the x-ray machine! If they want to put the carrier through the x-ray machine, take the puppy out put the carrier through x-ray, and then put the puppy back in the carrier. Once on board, put the puppy under the seat. I arrange to sit next to the bathrooms where there is lots of room. This space is reserved for mothers with babies, but the French consider puppies to be babies. You will hold the carrier on your lap for take off and landing if you elect this option. During the flight I take the puppy to the handicap bathroom (ie. the one big enough for a wheel chair.) I put paper towels down on the floor and turn on the water until the puppy urinates and defecates. I do NOT tell my fellow passengers what I have done.
At customs I answer all questions honestly:
I agree to quarantine the puppy (at home) until it is old enough to get a rabies shot at 3 months.
Then we go home and bond. Well, we have already bonded, but we do go home and sleep a lot -- the trip is exhausting.
You can do this on united airlines and Lufthansa. I flew united when Air France was on strike. It was a hostile experience but we survived.
Puppies cost around $600. You select the puppy by selecting the breeder and trusting that the breeder will have the "right" puppy for you. The process is too complicated to check out a puppy -- you have to get the tickets in advance.
The cost of carrying the puppy in the cabin is negligible -- maybe $100. Probably less, depending on the air carrier you fly with. It is the exhaustion that is the price one must pay.
It is also possible, if you are not able to travel to France, to have someone else bring back the puppy for you. As outlined below by Mary Burdette
I was fortunate to have found a very nice man who would bring Woden over for me, so Woden traveled as a passenger, not in cargo. We covered the cost of the courier's ticket as well as a room for a night at a Boston hotel. It worked perfectly.
Woden's courier was a pilot, traveling as a passenger, and was bumped up into first class when the flight attendant saw him. Woden dined on gourmet foods, apparently, and slept in luxury all the way over.
I was told that the customs officer in Boston gave the courier a rather hard time for coming over for such a short time and never even LOOKED at Woden's papers! Incredible.
All I needed was verification (signed papers) from his veterinarian in France that he was totally healthy. Of course, his pedigree also arrived with him. I was told that all I had to do was promise that I'd keep him quarantined at my home until he was old enough for his first rabies shot.
So, as you can see, it was a very easy process.
Certainly the process is somewhat easier if you find a breeder who has exported a pup before, so they know which hoops to jump through in terms of paperwork. But when I brought Euro back the breeder had not ever shipped a dog out of the country, and so we were both trying to figure out what we needed. The hardest part of the process, in all honesty, was finally realizing that it was indeed, JUST THAT EASY.