On their new series, Dog and Beth: On the Hunt — which premieres April 21 on CMT — Dog, Beth and Leland Chapman help other bond agencies master the business of hunting bad guys on the loose. But that doesn’t mean they’ve lost their mantra of mercy and their belief in the use of non-lethal weapons.
The Chapmans say the premise for the new show was based on the realization that their popular A&E series, Dog the Bounty Hunter, led to a boom in new bail agents, many of whom are not properly trained for the job — and because they feel the current presidential administration is endangering their trade. “Legislation coming through this administration [is] socializing bail bonds,” says Beth, who serves as senior vice president of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States. “So people at this level of the bail-bonds business need to make it their business to make sure that the other 15,000 bail agents do their businesses correctly. That they’re safe. We don’t want guns being spread across America into the hands of bail agents or into the hands of bounty hunters that don’t necessarily need to use them.”
The duo explains that their belief in using firearms only as a backup extends beyond ensuring the safety of their fellow bond agents and their prey — it also goes right to the heart of the integrity of their industry.
“You can catch someone pumping gas into their car and you don’t need a gun,” Beth says. “There are all kinds of ways to use trickery to capture someone without hurting them. Because at the end of the day, bail bonds and bounty hunting is about money. And we’re not going to kill for money. That’s why our philosophy is a bit different — we want to love them out of it. We want to give them a little bit of hope and some mercy that they haven’t seen before.”
“Duane and I, we serve an industry that we love, that we care about, and we don’t really need to write bail bonds anymore. But we want to,” Beth continues. “With this this show, it gives us a much better opportunity to go across the country to all these other bail companies and lend our services to them and to help them streamline their businesses and get their jumps under control in a way that there are no crises. We need to be a productive part of the law, so we can justify our existence in the justice system as well.”
I sat down with Dog, Beth and Leland Chapman after a recent press conference to discuss the new show, why they feel that a compassionate takedown is usually best — and why their bounties seeing themselves on TV is often the biggest life changer of all.
Channel Guide Magazine: You guys have been at this for a very long time, and this time around it looks like you’re helping take down more dangerous criminals than you did on Dog The Bounty Hunter. Did you discover you still had something left to learn about your job and industry when you traveled to other agencies for the new show?
Beth: For me, it brought a greater understanding of why some of the states allow their bondsmen to carry concealed weapons. Because they really are in peril. They’ve got really dangerous fugitives running there and we want to make sure these guys are trained in weaponry so they can protect themselves.
If someone pulls a gun on us, it’s rightful for us to pull a gun on them. But you need to be prepared to use a gun if you pull a gun. So we really wanted to be prepared enough to encourage people to have a primary weapon that is not lethal and a lethal weapon as a secondary weapon. And that a lethal weapon is to be used only when your life is being threatened. I think that’s just got to be a universal message all across the country.
We’re training them that mistakes that you make are a reflection on our entire industry. So we’ve got to keep them doing things above board and in a peaceable way so that we can continue to keep our industry — which is the second oldest industry in history.
Channel Guide Magazine: Leland, you’re the weapons guy. Is it exciting for you to have more of a platform to use and display that knowledge on Dog and Beth: On the Hunt?
Leland: At first I was trying to think, what is my role going to be? I’m a young guy coming in and trying to tell these guys that are twice my age what to do and that kind of threw me: Even though I probably know more about bounty hunting than this guy, how am I going to approach it with him where he doesn’t get offended and think that I’m Mr. Know-it-all?
So I stuck to what I know for sure I know the best and gave them suggestions. “If I was you, I would put this here and this here and that might make it a bit more streamlined and easier for you to move.”
If I did that way, then it’s not like I’m telling the guy what to do. I’m just giving him suggestions and I left it up to him whether he’s going to take my advice or not. Most of them did, because they’ve been doing it their way, so they’d try it my way and then call me up and tell me they liked it better and thanks for helping them out.
And same thing, when I go over there, there may be something that I can learn from these guys also and then take it to the next guy. Bounty hunting is kind of like boxing — you never can stop learning. You take it in, flip it around and give it your own little whatever and make it perfect for you — and then you can share with the next guy. We’ve had the ability to do that, because we have been there and done that.
So I try to tell everybody — I’m not trying to tell you what to do. I’m just going to give you some examples and other options you might decide you like better.
Channel Guide Magazine: A big part of the appeal of Dog the Bounty Hunter turned out to be the shot at redemption that you offered the people you captured. Did you have any idea that that would be the case when you first started filming the show?
Beth: We hoped so.
We’re people who understand. We live the life. We walk the walk. And there are 20 million of these guys with the same problems, so we all have the experience to deal with them. So when they see us, they see it as ray of light. They’re like, “These guys are going to listen to me. I’m going to be able to tell my story to them.”
And even if we think it’s bull crap, we’re going to tell them: “It’s bull crap, bra’! That’s a copout! Get to work!” And then we coddle them and we go to work and we help them. And ultimately their lives start to change just by small steps and small actions.
There’s a lot of desperation in this economy and people are really in peril. They don’t know where else to turn.
Dog: What was astonishing to me is that when in the first shows that we did, I was like, “Alright, we caught the guy — now cut the frickin’ camera!” And they said they did, but they didn’t.
Because I didn’t want them to see me fixing the schmuck. Getting a Band-Aid for his toe, or a rag to wipe his head. [Points to Leland] He’s the doctor of the group and will sew the stitches. Leland does all that — he’s certified to do it. But I didn’t want America to see that because I thought they would think, “Oh, Dog is throwing the pearls before the swine. That son of a bitch broke into my house and threatened to kill my wife and Dog is getting him some water! I think they ought to hang the S.O.B. at noon!”
I thought, “Oh, we can’t show that!” But they did anyway. And lo and behold, at least half of the attraction for show is redemption. The retribution of Dog and family.
I was totally amazed. I always was amazed when I was like, “Why would you do that, you son of a bitch?” And the guy would be like, “My dad used to rape me, Dog!” Or “My mother was a prostitute and I had to watch her do that!” And I’d be like, “Holy sh– …. Leland, come talk to this guy!” [laughs]
You hate the son of a bitch — until you catch him.
Leland: They’re all people. And everyone makes mistakes, even the good guys — even a good guy makes poor decisions. Some people just learn the hard way, but no one has ever taken the two minutes or ten minutes or whatever it takes to figure out what the root of his problem is and help him get back on track. And that’s something that my dad has specialized in. And it’s done a lot for the guys that we’ve picked up. We’ve seen guys that we’ve picked up 6 months later and they’re a totally different person. And it wasn’t until they went home and saw themselves on TV that they realize, “Oh, man, look at what I’m doing.” All the stuff that people have been telling him, he can really see for his own eyes.
It’s helping people. It’s giving people hope. And I believe what we’re doing out there is a good thing, so that’s why it’s been so successful and so strong.
Dog: That’s what we’re about. If there’s a God — which I have told Leland there is, and I’m never 100% convinced, but I believe there is — he says in order to get up there and live there, then we’ve got to do this stuff.
I’ve done a lot of @#$% when I was young that I’m not proud of. And I started making amends. It’s a calling. I’ve always said, “It’s a calling. God gave us a gift.” It’s definitely a calling from God.
I was once in my early 20s — as we all were once — and I lived with thousands of other men [in the Texas State Penitentiary] and one of them in particular was doing 90 years for rape. He was 18 and he took this lady and put her in the trunk, and as he drove through the park before he raped her, she wanted a drink of water. So he pulled over, let her out of the trunk and the cops saw him. He received 99 years and a day for first-degree attempted rape. He had been in this place for about 12 years and when anybody wanted anything to stay alive, the one they could depend on was little Davey. Because his heart was not that way anymore. I’d talk to him and he’d go, “Dog, I really forget what happened that day. Here’s what they told me I did.” And I thought, “Oh my God, for the rest of his life! Nobody was there to help the guy!”
And then all of a sudden, I was put in a position to be the guy to help these guys.
And so, as Leland says, we see them again 6-7 months later after they see themselves on TV — Beth calls it shame therapy. They’re like, “Holy @#$%, is that me? I really am that bad?”
One the best professional surfers in America, Buttons, saw himself on our show and said, “Oh my God, that’s me on dope?” He thought he was a failure.
Beth: He said, “That is really not me and that is not the legacy that I want to leave.”
Buttons was a professional surfer and created the 360-degree spin on the surfboard and he had a surf school and he had a great career. And he basically got sucked down the drug tube and his life was busted. He was doing dope in a van on the side of the road with his hair sticking up.
Dog: And he saw himself on TV and was like, “Oh my God!”
Beth: He said, “That is not me. I can’t let my followers down. These kids are my life and I want to teach them to surf and teach them to stay out of trouble with the surfboard.” But it took seeing himself like that to change his life. And he changed his life. Today his surf school is up and running. He’s completely drug free. His life is 150% different and he’s cleaned up his act.
Dog: It’s not, “Oh, Dog and Beth and Leland, they changes their lives.” No. The show did. Them seeing themselves like that. I once tied these horns on the front of my car when I was 19 …
Beth: Oh, here we go with this story again!
Dog [laughing]: … and I saw that later and I was like …
Beth: “That’s the stupidest crap I’ve ever seen?”
Dog: … I was like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that I did that!” But at the time I felt so cool. I was driving that car and I saw them horns …
Beth [singing]: “Yippee-ai-ohhhhh! Yippee-ai-ayyyyyy!”
Dog: And then later I was like, I can’t believe I was that dumb. But you have to be able to see yourself like that. And you have to do something for people. You gotta do it. You have to be able to sleep at night. You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror.
Beth: Be a blessing to someone else. That’s why we do what we do. If you have the chance to be a blessing to someone else, you have to jump on that. Because that’s your calling. If not, you’ll find yourself in the belly of the whale.
Dog: We also do a job that is satisfying to ourselves. And every American wants to do that — whatever color they are. They want to lay down at night and figure, ‘Hey, I did something good for someone today.”
Leland’s a tough guy and can throw down unbelievably, but you don’t have to be a tough Leland to do this, because Baby Lyssa did it too. [Points to Beth] She’s Italian. She’s nuts. But she’s not that tough. She’s still a little girl — my little Bethie. So women see that they can help catch the bad guy, too. And I think that draws people to that positive energy, draws them to us.
One of my favorite actors is Sylvester Stallone. And when I first met him, I was like, “Hi, Ram- … Hi, Rock- … Hi, Mr. Stallone.” Because he’s not Rambo and he’s not Rocky. And Beth is Beth, Leland is Leland and Dog is Dog. We don’t play another personality — we are who we are. I think that that’s a lot of the draw. That maybe they could do this. Or maybe their life is interesting enough that they could have a reality show. Look at little Honey Boo Boo [laughs]! Her mom’s at the bank, and she ain’t ringing no bells, sister!
The world has opened up like that with reality TV — and the bottom line for us is, it’s good guy versus bad guy. And the frickin’ bad guy’s gonna lose!
[Turns to Beth and grins] She’d like me if I was a pole dancer.
Beth: I doubt it! Leland can be a pole dancer. That can be a spinoff show for women …
Dog and Beth: On the Hunt premieres Sunday, April 21, at 8/7CT on CMT.