Here's a question: once you actually get dog owners to pick up after their dogs—a historically uphill battle in New York City—what do you do with that bag of poo?

Upper West Side residents thought they knew: simply bag it up and throw it away in the nearest trash can, typically one owned and operated by the city.

But some folks are getting conflicting information on how to clean up after their canines. West Side Rag reports that after one local complained about the removal of neighborhood trash cans, and the overflowing garbage that ensued at the remaining trash cans, a deputy director at the Department of Sanitation sent her a letter noting that two litter baskets had been added to the trashy area in question. But the letter also contained a surprising lecture on the obscure rules governing sidewalk trash cans:

“Litter baskets are intended for pedestrian litter - while canine waste may be placed in litter baskets, that is not their primary purpose. Dog walkers should not be placing their canine waste on, or in other residents’ receptacles placed out for DSNY collection services. New York State Public Health Law requires that each person who owns or controls a dog must remove any feces left by that dog on any sidewalk, gutter, or other public area and dispose of it in a legal manner; ultimately, by carrying it away for disposal in a toilet, or placed out with their own trash.”

Yes, according to this unnamed official, the city would like New Yorkers to comply with state law and transport their dog’s excrement home in a bag, and then flush the contents of the bag down their toilets.

To most dog owners, this notion comes as a surprise.

Elaine Evans has lived on the Upper West Side for more than 30 years and walks her shih-tzu-poodle mix — a 13-year-old pup named Alfie — nearly every day in Riverside Park.

“You mean taking the poop back in a bag and emptying it into the toilet. Is that what you're saying?” she said when asked about the city’s proposed alternative.

“It's too clumsy,” she added. “Umm... that's a rough one.”

Other residents were more adamant.

“No, I don't want to bring it home. Will not bring dog poop home,” Upper Westsider Doug Feinstein declared.

Feinstein lives near Riverside Park and is a dog walker with a pup of his own. He says this is what trash cans are there for.

“I think you throw it away where you pick it up, in the nearest New York City public litter receptacle,” he said.

To be clear, the Sanitation Department does allow dog owners to throw away pet poop in public trash cans, so long as it's in a closed bag. The department’s website states that, along with flushing it or throwing it out at home, “the feces may also be placed in a non-leaking sealed bag or container and deposited in a DSNY litter basket.”

Belinda Mager, a spokeswoman for the Department of Sanitation, says taking the poop bags back home is just a suggestion—an alternative for folks who might not have another option available.

“It's one of many options,” Mager said. “Litter baskets are placed in commercial areas. If you live in a very residential area, you may not have a litter basket on your corner.”

But Feinstein says that's exactly the problem: there just aren't enough trash cans.

“I think we need more places to put litter,” he said, “including dog poop.”

There are currently some 800 litter bins in the neighborhood — for residents and their dogs alike.

And don’t forget, there are still plenty of public doggy bidets in NYC.

WNYC's Alejandra Salazar has more:

Alejandra Salazar is an assistant producer in the newsroom at WNYC. You can follow her on Twitter at @alejandramsc.