With his distinctive long, blond mane of hair and ultra-macho personality, Dog the Bounty Hunter was one of TV’s highest-rated and most visible stars. But, these days, he’s become as elusive as the bail breachers he used to track down. However, there’s an entirely lawful explanation for his absence from our screens – and the reason why may come as a surprise.
Although he works on the right side of the law, Duane “Dog” Chapman, originally from Denver in Colorado, hasn’t always been an upstanding citizen. In fact, when he was just a pup of 23 in 1976, Chapman was charged with the first-degree murder of a drug dealer in Texas. And while the star was only witness to the act, he still received a five-year sentence under Texan law.
“It’s something that follows you the rest of your life, no matter who you become or who you are,” Chapman lamented of the prison time to the Associated Press in 2012. “In Texas in the ’70s, if you were present [at a crime], you were just as guilty. I shouldn’t have went, and I shouldn’t have been the person I was back then.”
But despite his half-a-decade sentence, Chapman received parole after only 18 months. And the young man knew that he had to turn his life around. So, upon his release, Chapman took up bounty hunting, catching his very first fugitive on his first day of freedom.
Then, during the years that followed, Chapman steadily gained a formidable reputation for rounding up wanted men and women. Having moved to Hawaii in 1989, Chapman grew his business there to include four companies and tackled high-profile runners such as the rapist Andrew Luster. In addition, he also made a family for himself; he would introduce his wife Beth, son Leland and “blood brother” Tim to the business as well.
But although Chapman may have been a big dog in the world of bounty hunting, he and his crew were still unknown to the wider population. That all changed in 2003, however, when the team were featured on TV’s Take This Job, which focused on folk with out-of-the-ordinary occupations. Soon, Chapman’s antics were a talking point for television fans, and network execs seemingly smelt the potential for a winning new show.
And, indeed, Chapman did get his very own series. Premiering on cable and satellite TV channel A&E in 2004, Dog the Bounty Hunter was an immediate success. Featuring Chapman and his family, the reality show garnered a huge following thanks to its lead man’s brave and breathtaking apprehensions of fleeing felons. By the end of its eight-season run, the program was being watched by 2.9 million fans, in fact.
But while Chapman pulled no punches when it came to pouncing on his bounties, he also displayed a forgiving side. Perhaps inspired by his own second chance after prison, the star would often end his pursuits by urging his charges to change their ways. And his on-camera counseling became a much-admired part of Chapman’s persona.
But while Chapman’s TV career was looking great, his life behind the scenes wasn’t nearly as pretty. In 2007, during the fourth season of the show, Chapman had a heated telephone conversation with his son, Tucker, in which the star – referring to his boy’s African-American girlfriend – used the N-word repeatedly. Little did he know, though, that Tucker was committing the regrettable racist tirade to tape.
And following Tucker’s release of the audio to the National Enquirer, Chapman was well and truly in the doghouse. Even though the star would go on to make an apparently sincere apology, his public image was forever tarnished. A&E also suspended Chapman’s show while the network conducted an investigation into his comments.
Then, upon the return of Dog the Bounty Hunter to television, Chapman became beset with even more problems. For example, former bail breacher Hoang Nguyen filed a lawsuit in 2011 after Chapman claimed that the perp had shot him during the show’s sixth season. That same year, the star’s sons, Leland and Duane Lee, also made a very public break from the show and the family.
And following eight years of crime and punishment, Dog the Bounty Hunter was finally laid to rest by A&E in 2012. While no official explanation was given for the show’s cancellation, Chapman hinted to E! News that it was due to him and the network being “unable to reach an agreement for the ninth season.”
Luckily, Chapman and his team weren’t out of action for too long. Just months after A&E announced that it would be ending Dog the Bounty Hunter, rival network CMT signed the star and his family up for a follow-up series. Titled Dog and Beth: On the Hunt, the show premiered in 2013.
Unlike their previous show, the Chapmans’ new series took a more informative and in-depth approach to bail procedure. Indeed, although trailing and frustrating fugitives was a big part of the show, Dog and Beth: On the Hunt also focused on portraying new methods in bounty hunting. The series also reunited the couple with their estranged son Leland.
After three years on CMT, however, Dog and Beth: On the Hunt was canceled in 2016 – and with it, Chapman and his wife’s television careers seemingly came to an end. Furthermore, since their departure from the show, the stars have kept a relatively low profile. And – naturally – some fans grew curious as to why the pair were no longer gracing their TV screens.
Well, while Chapman’s history may be littered with scandals and suspensions, the star actually left the show of his own free will. It seems that over the course of their Dog and Beth: On the Hunt program, he and his wife learned a lot about the U.S. bail system. And they didn’t like what they discovered, so they decided to direct their energies towards saving their profession.
The American bail system is currently being challenged by a number of legal reforms that could potentially outlaw bounty hunting in America. In response, both Chapman and Beth have been working tirelessly to combat such changes. For example, Beth successfully ran for president of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States in 2016.
“I feel that it is time for us to put our money where our mouth is in regards to protecting our industry,” Beth explained to In Touch Weekly shortly after giving up the TV show. “We have learned that our industry is under attack, and our bail agents need strong and experienced leadership to protect the good work they do all across the United States.”
Speaking to the same publication, Chapman added that he and Beth’s departure from TV hopefully wouldn’t be permanent. “This is not an end to Dog the Bounty Hunter,” he said. “But if these lawyers have their way, it will be the end of the bail system in the United States, and we cannot sit by and let that happen.”
And the Chapmans’ work in this field is already showing signs of success. In 2016, for example, the pair helped halt a bill in Idaho that would have limited the work bounty hunters could perform in the state. So, with plenty more campaigning work to get their teeth into, it could be some time before we see Chapman and Beth sniffing out perps on TV again.